THE BLOG

International Women's Day: Time to End the Tampon Tax

10/03/2016 12:49 GMT | Updated 10/03/2017 10:12 GMT

The European Parliament makes much of International Women's Day to preach to the world that women would still be chained to the kitchen sink were it not for a series of legislative reports and directives to ensure 'gender mainstreaming' and gender equality workshops.

But an issue which has enraged women across the country, regardless of political ideology or social background is the tampon tax.

EU VAT rules mean that despite the products being essential for women, Westminster cannot make them 'zero rated'. This was confirmed in a reply to my colleague, fellow MEP Louise Bours, when they said:

'Introducing zero VAT rates for sanitary items would not be in line with the VAT Directive.'

MPs in Westminster held a debate on the subject, with the cringe-making debate being to 'force a negotiation' with the 27 other countries in the EU to stop this blatant discrimination against women.

Because it is discrimination.

I recently, in my position as MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, submitted a request to the European Parliament that us MEPs put our time to good use and take a break from voting on how to deal with particularly flatulent species of cow to call for an end to this gender discrimination.

There is even a clause in the VAT Directive which I believe the tampon tax contravenes (although I will admit to having to search through the lengthy tome rather than know it off the top of my head). It clearly states that men and women should not be discriminated against in the access and the supply of goods and services. Well aside from being rather good for lighting camp fires, it's women who need to purchase tampons and not men. It is clearly gender discrimination based on the functioning of a woman's body.

But my colleagues from across the EU refused the debate, no doubt shelving the debate in the run up to the UK referendum for fear of highlighting Brussels' role in the hated tax.

The committee of senior MEPs and civil servants refused to allow it to be discussed despite regularly calling for legislation on equality for women.

I can only imagine they are clearly terrified that if British women realise the fact they pay tax on essential items like tampons is because of an EU directive it will encourage more of them to vote to leave.

According to opinion polls women are more likely to be risk averse and vote to remain in the EU for fear of 'a leap in the dark'.

It's another example of say one thing, do another; just like they spend years calling for equality for women in the workplace by imposing patronising quotas, then allow thousands of migrants who have no respect for women to enter the EU and wander freely, harassing and sadly sometimes raping women.

If politicians, be it in Strasbourg or Westminster really cared, they'd be cracking down on doctors who perform female genital mutilation in the UK or spending foreign aid on projects we could all get behind like proper gynaecological care in the developing world instead of propping up brutal dictators.

But instead International Women's Day is a combination of a Public Relations exercise and a chance to patronise women. All female guests in the hotel I am in were given a rose today to celebrate: a touching gesture but patronising. Perhaps very grand hotels provide their favoured female clients with a basket of kittens.

It also implicitly implies that if we women have a day, that the rest of the year is all about men.

I don't believe in this strident feminism where we can't call ourselves Miss or are letting the sisterhood down by wearing heels to the office. I believe in equality rather than one sex being better than the other.

But whilst there are women around ready to lie down and have their tummy rubbed by a male-run establishment giving us a token 'day' while at the same time charging us tax on essential sanitary protection then we know it is meaningless, and we should bite that hand until we are treated as equals.

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