Towards equality. The UK will stop taxing periodic protection from 2021, but campaigners believe there is still some way to go before menstrual insecurities and taboos around menstruation are eliminated.
“I told myself: ‘I’m just going to take the pill to stop my period,’ because I couldn’t afford sanitary protection,” recalls Eleanor Cowell. “At the time, I thought it was a good idea. But I was having weird cramps and yo-yoing my weight all the time.” Ms Cowell, who lives in the UK, faced menstrual insecurities when she was young. She never told anyone about it because she was “shamed” that she couldn’t afford tampons and sanitary napkins.
“I left my parents’ house when I was 16,” recalls the 32-year-old. “I didn’t qualify for social benefits because I was still in school. I worked for the fast food chain Subway and received £30 sterling (35 euros) a week through the UK government’s alumni aid program. Had to cover all my expenses: bills, rent, food, public transport, school fees and books”.
Ms Cowell, who now works as a manager for a charity, says there was little talk of rules back then and they were mostly seen as shameful and taboo. “If I went somewhere with period protectors, I would always hide them,” she adds. “I took some from a friend’s house.”
Don’t be afraid to use the word “rules” anymore
But Ms Cowell argues that there has been real freedom of speech on the rules in recent years, and removing VAT on tampons and sanitary napkins earlier this year may have helped a lot when she was younger. As of January 1, 2021, menstrual protectors are no longer considered “luxury, non-essential items” in the UK and are no longer taxed at 5%. “They would have been very much within my means,” she said. “All the work done in recent years to get people to talk about menstruation and fear the use of the word ‘period’ has made it possible to standardize them. Extremist unions have put something on the political agenda that women do. every month.”
Activists who have campaigned for years for an overhaul of the “buffer tax” have said the change marks the end of a “sexist” tax policy that has been in force in the country since 1973. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, promised in the March 2020 British budget to eliminate the tax on clean protection, with VAT (value-added tax) on these products now reduced to zero. Laura Corriton, who started the Stop Taxing Periods campaign in May 2014 while studying at Goldsmiths University in London, says she started the petition when the rules were not on the political agenda and were even more “encircled” by a taboo .
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The 27-year-old Londoner also says that “it is a great relief that the ‘buffer tax’ has been abolished.” It’s been so many years since the government said it would remove it. “When I came to know about the tax on sanitary products, I knew nothing about taxation. At that time, I inquired. I realized that other things were not taxed because they were considered essential; eg For the maintenance of private helicopters or the consumption of alcoholic jelly,” he declared.
“Impact on Girls’ Education”
“This tax reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the needs of so many menstruating people,” she said. “It shows how badly the rules are dealt with in the school. Politicians must understand that sanitation protection is essential. Especially since the lack of access to these products is affecting the education of girls.” The activist says that the abolition of the “buffer tax” makes it possible to tackle the taboos surrounding periods, which she considers to be a determining factor in menstrual insecurity; And make a “difference in daily expenses” for those who find it difficult to have coverage from time to time.
“When I started the petition in 2014, no politician wanted to even say the word ‘rules’,” she recalls. He didn’t even use it in the email he sent me: he said “feminine cleanliness”. It’s crazy how much the situation has evolved since then. If the “buffer tax” has been in place for so long, it’s because we were told we can’t talk about the rules. She notes that removing this tax has made a big difference in reusable sanitation protection, which is often more costly. But Corriton is surprised that England has not followed the example of Scotland, which last November for a long time. After the awareness campaign became the first country in the world to make periodic protection free for all.
“It’s crazy we didn’t even do that,” she reflects. I think we’ll do it eventually because Scotland does everything first. It’s not crazy. The device helps people experiencing menstrual insecurities and eliminates menstrual taboos, as well as helps avoid medical complications for those who use handkerchiefs and socks as hygienic protection. are forced to use”. A study by Charity Plan International found that three in ten young Brits struggled to find or find protection from time to time during the COVID-19 pandemic; More than half of them had to pledge to use toilet paper instead of suitable products. One in five girls also said that her periods were more difficult to bear because she didn’t have enough toilet paper.
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