Periods are not a luxury. Period.

CAMPAIGNER: Emma Chesworth can be found Tweeting @EmmaChesworth1

CAMPAIGNER: Emma Chesworth can be found Tweeting @EmmaChesworth1

THIS week MPs voted against a move to reduce or even scrap the 5% VAT rate on sanitary products which are currently classed as luxury items. Emma Chesworth shares her thoughts.

Luxury: “A state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense”

               “An inessential, desirable item which is expensive or difficult to obtain” 

               “A pleasure obtained only rarely”

This is the Oxford Dictionaries’ definition of luxury. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, none of the above readily spring to mind when my period arrives every month or when I head out to buy tampons.

Now I know some of the adverts for sanitary products would have you believe that the onset of your period will have you leaping in the air for joy but really ‘a state of great comfort or elegance’?

Well, in the UK, tampons and sanitary products are regarded as luxury items and are, as such, subject to a 5% VAT rate.

Meanwhile, we all know that it is impossible to get through the day without reaching for a nice crocodile steak, some Jaffa Cakes or edible cake decorations. Well, no worries on that score. These are all classed as essential items and therefore free from VAT. Phew!
MPs rejected the Finance Bill amendment by 305 to 287 votes. The ‘tampon tax’ will be now be raised with the European Commission – but the Government said any change would require and the unanimous agreement of all 28 member states. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) says the VAT rate charged on the items is the lowest allowed under EU law.

Earlier this week MPs rejected a Finance Bill amendment which would have forced a negotiation with the EU for a reduction in the 5% VAT rate of sanitary products.

David Gauke, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has said the issue will be raised with the European Commission.
Periods are not a luxury and sanitary products are a necessity. We should not be penalised for having periods.  If women are struggling to pay for food and household bills, they will no doubt struggle to pay each month for sanitary products.

A petition calling for an end to the 5% tax rate has more than 250,000 signatures and support is continuing to grow. Now, where are those Jaffa Cakes?

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Main picture taken from the Fashion Exercise Book by Frances Moffatt