Please don’t let Nigel Farage be the only one who stands up to the tampon tax

The UKIP leader has shown his contempt for women's bodies numerous times - yet he's trying to woo female voters by promising what other parties won't

 

UKIP announced yesterday that it wants to scrap the VAT on tampons. Currently, women’s sanitary products are classed as ‘non-essential luxury items’ by the Treasury, meaning they are taxed at five per cent.

UKIP’s head of policy Suzanne Evans is absolutely right to call the tampon tax ‘outrageous and outdated’. When you consider that condoms and the pill are free on the NHS, the fact that we pay for tampons at all seems ludicrous; it’s all part of the same system!

The list of things that George Osborne considers to be more essential than tampons includes:

Ornamental vegetables

Alcoholic jellies

Helicopters

Twiglets

Antiques

In February, David Cameron promised a group of students that he would look into the law:

“Some VAT things you can change. Other VAT things, if they’re linked to other products, it’s quite difficult to do it within the framework of European laws and I can’t remember the answer.

“I think it’s very difficult to do but I’ll have to go away and have a look and come back to you.”

– but has yet to make any further comment. Labour, the Greens and the SNP have so far been silent on the issue.

So it is great that UKIP have drawn attention to the issue; I hope that David Cameron and Ed Miliband will realise that they cannot allow a party as misogynistic as UKIP to outdo them on something so obvious as tampon tax.

Just to recap on UKIP’s usual view on women:

Nigel Farage has described paid maternity leave as ‘lunacy’:

“With this lunacy, that if you have children you get three months paid leave off work, or six months paid leave off work – [Godfrey Bloom] absolutely got it spot on.

“His comments get to the absolute heart of the problem of the EU. Social policy against employment policy…that’s why there are over 20 million unemployed in the EU.”

Mr Farage thinks that women are ‘worth less’ to City employers for ‘biological reasons’, and that breastfeeding mothers should ‘sit in a corner’. Meanwhile UKIP want to make it legal to discriminate on grounds of gender, (as well as race) and numerous MPs have been caught making sexist comments about ‘sluts’, women in the workplace, and the existence of marital rape. For a full list of these see here.

So it will be bad news if UKIP’s announcement on the tampon tax manages to woo more female voters. We will have reached a situation of sheer insanity if Nigel Farage is the only leader standing up to end this unfair tax on women’s hygiene.

Of course, what the pledge really is is a way to sell UKIP’s anti-EU message to a different demographic. UKIP say we cannot end the tampon tax whilst we are still in the EU. Because no European country can exempt something that is taxed under EU law, removing the tax would require a Europe-wide effort.

But European laws can be changed, so long as there is consensus across the continent.

As campaigner Laura Coryton has pointed out, these things happen in small steps, but someone needs to take the first one. If the chancellor signed up to end the tax, the petition could grow to the point that it could be presented to the European Parliament. We need the support of our government if we are to lobby for change in the EU.

This is an issue that affects all European women; sanitary products are taxed at 27 per cent in Hungary, and 20 per cent in France. But besides the actual numbers, there is a principle we must defend: the rights of women to access products that are absolutely necessary for them to function, and necessary for hygiene and dignity.

So please, Westminster – don’t let Nigel Farage be the only one who stands up for it.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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