The Blog

Vagina Added Tax Is Because 'Men Were Making the Laws', Says Obama

Massive congratulations to the fantastic #EndTamponTax campaigners!

Headed up by Laura Coryton this campaign and petition has successfully pressurized Parliament to scrap the archaic laws taxing tampons as 'luxury items'. They also forced MPs to use the word "tampon" and "period" in Parliament, which some found quite awkward.

The story behind the removal of this unfair tax shows why we need more women MPs and Peers at Westminster, which is what #5050Parliament is campaigning for.

#TamponTax was eventually scraped because Paula Sherriff MP succeeded in changing the law by getting an amendment to the Finance Bill. Her amendment called for a zero rate VAT on "sanitary products". Having got agreement from the EU in Brussels, the Prime Minister and Chancellor decided not to oppose her amendment when announcing the Budget.

MP Paula Sherriff is the first Opposition backbencher to ever successfully amend a Government's Budget. She said it had been an "absurdity" than tampons had been classed as a luxury product when "periods are simply a fact of life" calling the tax "Vagina Added Tax"

Cameron told Sheriff that the "new epithet" for VAT will "live on in Hansard for many years to come". He also added "Getting over some of the language barriers on sanitary products in a 28-person European Council is something that is going to stay with me for a while."

President Obama's reaction to Tampon Tax on Youtube was particularly inspiring and encouraging:

"I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it's because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed."

He is absolutely right but the Tax on Tampons is the tip of the iceberg.

There are many important issues that are legislated by men but which affect women predominantly, including FGM, sexism, sexual discrimination, maternity care and domestic violence. But it is not just these issues that affect women and matter to them. Women should be equally involved in drafting policy in all areas including the economy, energy, defence, foreign affairs, environment, transport, health, education and parenting. Women are 51% of the population, 51% of the life experience, talent and skills. Women make a massive contribution to society with their paid and unpaid work, they merit fair inclusion in Parliament so they can participate equally in writing the laws, running the country and planning the future.

Women are a majority in life but a minority in Parliament. Of our 650 MPs only 191 are women. Men outnumber women by more than 2:1. There are still more men in the House of Commons than there have ever been women MPs in the whole of history. In the House of Lords only around 200 of our 800 Peers are women.

These statistics suggest that the system is not working for women. There is a democratic deficit.

50:50 Parliament is calling upon all Party Leaders for solutions to this historic problem. Parliament has the power to sort it out. We would like to see men and women running the country and planning our future, together, in more equal numbers.

Westminster needs to be attractive and accessible to women so that it draws upon the widest possible range of experience, talent and skills. We need more women in Parliament because, representation, or lack of it, shapes policy, as #TamponTax clearly demonstrated. If there were more women MPs and Peers then there might not need to be so many campaigns and petitions concerning women and gender equality. Only 134 more women MPs are needed from a population of 32 million to get gender parity in Parliament, it should not be a big ask.

Professor Joni Lovenduski from Birkbeck, University of London, writes " Evidence from more balanced legislatures than ours shows that men can act for women, but they may be more likely to do so when there are more women around."

And Prof Ngaire Woods "We know that when women are in builds more resilient, responsive, better-informed institutions." The evidence is overwhelming. She adds "These things are not about each individual woman but about the aspirations of a society."

The success of the #EndTamponTax campaign shows that petitions do make a difference and influence policy!

If you want better gender balance at Westminster with more women MPs and Peers then say so and sign the #5050Parliament petition here:! It is like a referendum on Gender Equality and every signature counts.

See President Obama's interview here at 35.54 minutes in: "I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it's because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed" and thanks Laura Coryton for supporting #5050Parliament at our picnic last year!

Sign up here to become a #5050Parliament Ambassador