Image: The Houses of Parliament, seen across Westminster Bridge, by Adrian Pingstone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
On Friday, November 6th, three women protested the tax on feminine hygiene products imposed by the European Union by free bleeding in front of the Parliament building in London. In the United Kingdom, feminine hygiene products are victim to an additional tax due to their classification as a “luxury” rather than “essential” items. In contrast, toiletries such as razors are not subject to this 5% tax on top of the costs and profit margins already accounted for by retailers. Charlie Edge, 22, and two of her friends wore white pants without tampons or pads to, in the words of their Facebook post, “show how ‘luxury’ tampons really are.” Although they reported dirty looks and calls for them to “get a job”, Edge also wrote that they received laughs and rhetorical questions of “how quickly would we get free tampons if everyone stopped wearing them?!”
The British government voted last month to continue the 5% “tampon tax”, as it has been dubbed, 305 to 287. However, the government has agreed to bring up the issue with other leaders in the EU community. Stella Creasy, a member of the Labour party, compared tampons to untaxed items like razors and snacks during the debates last month, stating that “It is when you start looking at what is described as a necessity and what is described as a luxury, that you see the inequalities in this debate.”
As someone who just spent the last five days sitting through class and out at dinner concerned that two pads may not have been enough to prevent an embarrassing stain on my jeans, searching for the nearest restroom but first the closest store to purchase more “feminine hygiene products” – pads – I know that tampons and pads are certainly not a luxury. One can hope that the EU will soon realize the same.