Posted on Thu 04 Feb 2016 at 14:50 by Chloe Wynne
A liberation campaign that has been almost impossible to miss in the past year has been that of Free Periods, a national challenge to the 5% tax levied on menstrual care products. The tax is levied in this way because these products – towels and tampons, for example – are still somehow categorised as a ‘luxury’ item.
By contrast, the UK tax system currently categorises such items as balsamic vinegar and ostrich meat as non-luxury or ‘essential’ items. Thus, these products are exempt from the same tax as tampons - as are edible cake decorations and herbal tea. Yes, it’s official: decorating that three-tier Victoria Sponge is apparently more important than taking care of a monthly bleed.
Laura Coryton, a student at Goldsmiths, spearheaded this campaign urging the government to remove the tax on menstrual care products. To date, the petition has received over 300,000 signatures. The government’s response, however, leaves much to be desired since their resolution is not to remove the extra cost-burden, but instead to use the money levied to fund women’s organisations. At first glance, this may seem a considerate solution - yet when you consider that the same government is slashing funds to those women’s organisations, you end up with an uneasy paradox whereby people with periods end up funding many of their own vital resources, charities and services. The movement against this therefore has to stem from the grass-roots.
Students’ Unions across the country are working on subsidising the tax themselves so that people with periods don’t have to foot the extra cost of menstruation. Here at Warwick, a motion is currently making its way through the democratic channels of the SU which, if passed, will:
1) Mandate the Sabbatical team to lobby for not only tax-free, but cost-price menstrual care products in Rootes Grocery Store;
2) Ask Warwick Accommodation to install and maintain product dispensers (also at cost-price) in every block of campus accommodation; and
3) Get the SU to give out these products for free, as we currently do with condoms.
I hope you’ll agree, that’s pretty cool!
A further initiative being delivered to Warwick for the first time is that of National Period Pride Day on 18th February (Week 6).
The day is a national celebration for organisations who have achieved Free Periods, as well as serving as a big drive for unions like Warwick who are working hard to deliver greater menstrual care accessibility. Furthermore, marking such a day across student communities in loud and vibrant ways contributes to the dispelling of ‘period shame’. Still today, periods are stigmatised and those who experience them are frequently made to feel that they are a taboo subject. Even using words such as ‘menstrual’ rather than ‘sanitary’ when talking about periods goes some way to dispelling the still widely-held notion that periods are a bodily function which people should be squeamish or embarrassed about, when this is not the case.
The first way you can get involved with the event is through our postcard campaign. We’ll provide templates throughout the week for you to express your opinions on the tampon tax, and then will send them off in bulk to George Osborne to demonstrate the strength of feeling on this issue.
In addition to voicing our stance against the tampon tax, Homed Warwick will be facilitating a collection of menstrual care products for distribution among local homelessness shelters and centres. Anyone and everyone can donate tampons and towels to boxes placed at SU Reception, inside Rootes Grocery Store and at Warwick Medical School throughout the week.
It’s time for women to stop being made to feel ashamed of their bodies. Don’t forget to join us on social media with the hashtag #PeriodPrideDay!