Friday, 30 October 2015

Sanitary Products: When a Necessity is Deemed a Luxury

Good morning all!

It's been quite a significant while since I last posted a blog. I suppose I speculate on the frequency of my publishing quite a lot, but that's because it's important to express your views. In any way possible. Through writing, speaking... it all makes a difference. And this is what I'd like this post here, in particular, to achieve.

So, getting to the point: on October 27th, 305 Members of Parliament voted against the motion of abolishing the tax on sanitary products which forces women into paying 5% VAT on what the European Union classifies as 'non-essential luxury items'. My MP, Victoria Prentis, was one of them. We're talking about sanitary products here. Tampons and towels. Not diamonds and pearls.

In a sense, however, we have progressed. Thanks to Labour MP Dawn Primarolo's 'tampon tax' campaign, the percentage of VAT on sanitary product was reduced by a big 12.5%, hence the tax now being 'just' 5%. But how much extra does this mean spending, even with the added 5%?

Women who currently menstruate are advised to change their tampons or sanitary towels every 4 hours, at a maximum. So, 24 / 4 = 6. That's a minimum of 6 pads or tampons per day, and seeing as the average-sized pack of sanitary towels/box of tampons includes just 12 individual items, that's enough to last us 2 days. It is important to note, though, that many women will choose to change their sanitary-wear more often than recommended for varying reasons, but moreover, through necessity.

Now, the average period lasts 5 days. Of course there are cycles that last longer and shorter amounts of time, but we're keeping this simple. After looking at a variety of local shops and analysing their prices, the cheapest it's possible to buy a packet of 30 (the amount you'd need - 5 days x 6 pads/tampons, at minimum) pads or tampons for comes to £3.75. Per period.  So, annually what does this mean? Well, 3.75 x 12 = 45.

£45 per year on sanitary products. £45 on something inevitable. In a very brief sense, we pay the price for being women. Something has to change.

And of course, these periods typically last for around 39 years, bearing in mind the average starting age is 12 and the average age of the menopause start is 51. For some more maths, £39 x £45 = £1755.

£1755 spent on sanitary products. This statistic in itself sounds outrageous, but what about women with daughters? Women who are earning lower than the minimum wage with no other means of income are having to spend almost over £2000 for a necessity they cannot avoid.

Basic sanitation is vital. It would be inhumane to deny anybody this. But people who live in poverty are suffering. They are denied this right because sanitary products are unnecessarily taxed. They are denied this right because of those in Parliament, who, in many instances, won't have experienced menstruation because of their gender.

We have a voice and we have to use it. Our voice is represented through our constituency's Member of Parliament. We must use the democracy our country offers us to our advantage. Getting in touch with your local MP, at the House of Commons, Westminster, SW1, reminding them they have the right to reflect your voice in their parliamentary votes is vital. It is only through engagement and activity that we will progress.

And that's it for today! Please do remember you have a voice and you have the right to use it.

Take care,

Sophie x

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