Sanitary protection, petitions and the period protest

By Grace Liu

What is Value Added Tax? Most young people probably rarely think about it. In short, it is the extra cost added to the price of a classified ‘luxury’ product and paid to the government whenever that product is purchased. What would you consider to be a luxury? Good food? Smart clothes?

Or how about the dignity of not bleeding uncontrollably all over your trousers?

Since 1973, women throughout the EU have been taxed for having to manage their periods, while men’s toiletries, jaffa cakes and exotic meats are untaxed, among many other items deemed ‘necessities’.

Yet menstruating homeless women are forced to bleed for all the world to see just because there is so little easy access to sanitary protection.

For me, it is one more example of women versus the world. Let me explain. In pop culture, past and present, media featuring women is for women, as if female based media is some special niche for a specific minority. You don’t hear of stories featuring ‘strong male characters’ because this area of the media is, more often than not, for everyone.

Now let me apply this concept to a more concrete situation. To put it bluntly, if an issue is female based – particularly if centered on body issues – it should not concern the rest of the world. In this case, it is understandable; periods are a sensitive subject, as well as an embarrassing issue to have to manage. But by increasing the cost of feminine products but not accessibility, it seems this view has been taken too far.

With this view in mind, two young menstruating women stood outside the House of Parliament without a single pad or tampon, following October’s tampon tax petition. The response was mixed; some people were fully supportive, while others told them to ‘get a job,’ or that the protest was ‘minging’ or that hygiene should be a top priority.

In my opinion this both proves and misses the point. Hygiene should be a top priority. Not a luxury. And in doing this protest, could these women have shed a light on periods among the homeless?

So far, the common view is that – like it or not – men, and therefore male politicians, are unaffected by the tampon tax, and have no reason to protest against it. But social media and recent reports have proven otherwise, despite the mixed opinions on this issue. Men and women alike have signed the petition and voiced their opinions online. A step in the right direction, but how long before it persuades the government?

Only time – and your votes – will tell.

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