PICTURE the scene.

Should VAT really equate to ‘Vagina Added Tax’ in the 21st century?

David Cameron has just navigated a minefield of pig-jokes with a smattering of penis jibes, and is finally regaining his political balance. Then he’s turning crimson in the midst of a vagina-invoked political debate. He’s probably thinking ‘can I not catch a break?’

Doubt it. This is a debate that, quite rightly, is refusing to die down. 

Women didn’t elect to sign up to a monthly visit from Auntie Flo, and what’s worse is that you are literally taxed because you were born with a uterus. There’s something sinister when contraception is free, but feminine products are considered a ‘luxury’ and taxed accordingly.

Following the 2015 General Election, 191 female MPs were elected. Would a female MP want to be labelled as ‘the one who prattles on about periods’? Unlikely. And no male MP would champion a discussion on why tampons shouldn’t be taxed at a higher rate. It’s a stance that would see them discarded rather than propelled into a political spotlight, poised for future greatness.

Parliament’s attitude to periods has always been an extension of the way society deals with ‘that time of the month’. Basically, don’t talk about it. I don’t talk about periods: period. Not with my friends, my mum or even my sisters. When a doctor asks me anything related to ‘my cycle’, I cringe. Anyone who knows me finds my aversion to talking about the ‘lady time’ bizarre given my willingness to talk about anything and everything else. We’re happy to divulge the most crass of sexual encounters, but don’t talk about periods. They might hear us.

Think back to your days in school when you had ‘the sex talk’. You were split into boys and girls. The girls were given a terrifying insight into the next 50 years, and a shiny cellophane bag full of sanitary towels and tampons. I have no idea what the boys did. All I remember is one of the boys stealing my friend’s pads and sticking them to each other’s backs and/or heads. The separation started in school: boys don’t need to know about periods and girls just need to know how to discreetly deal with them when they make that transition to womanhood.

Should VAT really equate to ‘Vagina Added Tax’ in the 21st century?

Its time to talk'Stop taxing periods, period.' 

You could argue that in the House of (twat) Lords, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to talk about the burdens of being born with a vagina. Women don’t choose to have periods. Periods turn up like your unwelcome relatives. To then tax women on the basis that tampons are a luxury and not an essential item is laughable. Especially when you consider that crocodile steak has a zero tax rating. Female hygiene isn’t a luxury, it’s essential. Given the average cost of a box of tampons at £3.14, the average woman will work for 38 days in her lifetime to afford her monthly flow.

Similarly, do we tax men’s products in the same way? Inequality is alive and thriving: a man can’t go without a shave, but women can apparently choose not to wear a sanitary towel. Labour MP Paula Sherriff’s attempt at ‘Parliament for Periods’ tackled the taboo, but fell before the final hurdle.

Some would argue that we should care more about homelessness than period provisions. But what about if you’re homeless and you don’t have the luxury of being able to afford sanitary items? There are tales of women who take the pill back-to-back to avoid their monthly visitor, and the added stress and expense of paying for their periods. Kiran Gandhi ran the London marathon this year, crossing the line in period-soaked leggings. Her goal was to draw attention to the plight of women who can’t go to work or to school purely because of the lack of feminine care available to them. I’d say she took it a step too far, but it’s hard to ignore her message.

Period-talk finally made its way into Parliament in a meaningful way just to be shelved. But the unwillingness of politicians to take a stand only reiterates what we already know: only women will champion the rights of women. Men don’t want to talk about periods, and don’t need to. And in a House overrun with men and macho agenda, the women just keep their monthly provisions in the bottom drawer.

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