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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Shocker! Periods aren’t a choice and healthcare isn’t a luxury

The British Parliament has drawn a lot of attention over the past few years, recently over something that most people would traditionally consider rather dry — its tax law. Specifically, its tax law as it pertains to tampons.

Tampons are currently taxed at 5 percent in Great Britain — as a “luxury item.” Campaigns over the years have actually drastically reduced the tax, which in the past has been as high as 17.5 percent. Currently, there is a proposed amendment to the Finance Bill that would eliminate the tax entirely.

Taxes are obviously important. However, in a country like Britain where many goods are subsidized by the government and remain untaxed, it’s interesting to note that tampons are not included in the list.

Notably, “alcoholic jellies,” “edible sugar flowers” and “exotic meats” are all items that are not taxed under the British code. Pita bread is not even taxed.

Under the National Health Service, condoms and hormonal birth control are free. Yet women in Britain must not only pay for their sanitary products, they must pay extra. Regardless of your stance on whether people should pay for birth control after they choose to become sexually active, it’s ludicrous to expect that women should pay extra for something that is most definitively not a choice — their period.

Ask any woman if they consider their monthly menstruation to be a luxury. Ask them if they consider their sanitary products unnecessary or frivolous. Ask them if they would rather live without alcoholic jellies or live without tampons.

Periods are painful. They’re messy. They’re a nuisance. They make it harder to exercise, harder to engage in sexual activities and even harder to sleep normally. The accompanying hormones cause mood swings that aren’t fun for anyone. In most places, they’re so taboo that women can’t even properly complain about them. Periods are, to put it plainly, miserable — why add insult to injury to force women to pay every time it happens?

Stella Creasy, a member of Parliament who discussed the proposed amendment on Channel 4 news, phrased the answer to this question incredibly eloquently.

“Tampons and sanitary towels … have always been considered a luxury,” she said. “That is not by accident; that is by design of an unequal society, in which the concerns of women are not treated as equally as the concerns of men.”

You can bet that if men got periods, the NHS would be passing out tampons on every street corner. Instead, we’re left with crotchety old members of Parliament trying to explain why it’s necessary to tax women for a biological function they have no control over.

The tampon tax is antiquated. It’s sexist. In many ways, it’s almost comical — until you consider the situations of women who live in poverty and cannot afford their own sanitary products every month. No one should ever have to decide between buying groceries and maintaining their reproductive health and sanitation.

The issue at hand shouldn’t be just eliminating the tampon tax — rather, members of Parliament should be focused on eliminating costs for tampons entirely. If they’re looking for ways to make up the extra money, perhaps they could consider a small tax on edible sugar flowers.


Follow Maddie Pickens on Twitter.


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