From January 1st, 2021 England officially abolished the tampon tax. The government recognizes that sanitary products are not a luxury, but an essential good.
Sanitary products are essential goods
While tampons were considered “non-essential”, women had to pay a 5% tax on tampons or pads. From the start of 2021, however, this tax is removed.
It took a 20-year campaign to convince the legislators that sanitary products should not have an additional tax. Critics stated that the extra charge, hitting the finances of women, was sexist.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak had planned to abolish the tax in the budget from March 2020. He declared to Metro Online:
“I’m proud that we are today delivering on our promise to scrap the tampon tax. Sanitary products are essential so it’s right that we do not charge VAT. We have already rolled out free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals and this commitment takes us another step closer to making them available and affordable for all women.”
A positive change for women
Twenty years ago, the tax on tampons used to be 17.5%. Thanks to the actions of Labour MP Dawn Primarolo, it was later lowered to 5%.
After that, however, the UK government did not reduce the tax any further. The administration claims this is due to EU rules, which would not allow to completely cancel the extra charge.
The changes are going to save every woman, on average, £40 through the course of her life. Although the numbers might seem small, this is an important success for activists fighting for women’s equality.
In an interview with BBC, Felicia Willow from the women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society expressed her joy for the achievement. She said:
“It’s been a long road to reach this point, but at last the sexist tax that saw sanitary products classed as non-essential, luxury items can be consigned to the history books.”
Scotland is already a step ahead
Since early 2020, schools, colleges, and hospitals in England offer free sanitary products to those who need them. Scotland, however, has gone a step further in order to fight period poverty.
A new bill, in force since November 2020, gives everyone in Scotland free access to sanitary products. People can get them without charge at various public locations, as well as schools and workplaces.
This makes Scotland the first country in the world to provide free universal sanitary products. No doubt, the Scots are leading the way towards a more equal society.