‘Begging for a tampon’: Tory tax forces women to use newspapers & socks, claims charity

© Loic Venance
A food bank minister has called on Parliament to scrap value added tax (VAT) on tampons after discovering homeless women are using old socks and newspapers because they are unable to afford sanitary products.

Speaking on International Women’s Day last week, Major Colin Bradshaw, who runs the Darlington Salvation Army Food Bank in northern England, called for an end to “the secret shame forced on women through poverty.”

“In 21st-century Britain no woman should have to rinse an old sock, wash out a handkerchief or scrounge for used newspapers to use instead of a tampon or sanitary pad.

“No woman should have to beg for a tampon.”

Last November, Osborne announced that the £15 million (US$21.1 million) collected from the 5 percent levy on sanitary products mandated by Brussels will be given to charities that support women.

READ MORE: Osborne: ‘Tampon tax’ will fund women’s charities

The proposal came under fire from critics who argued that women should not have to use their own taxes to fund rape crisis shelters and other projects whose funding has been slashed by Tory austerity measures.

Under current EU rules, the UK cannot slash the 5 percent rate any further, as it’s the lowest VAT rate permitted. However, leaked EU documents suggest that the European Commission is preparing to overhaul the “obsolescent” laws regulating VAT and give member states the power to set their own rates.

In light of new proposals, Chancellor George Osborne is facing increasing pressure to exempt women’s sanitary products from VAT.

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Seema Malhotra suggested Osborne use his Budget speech on Thursday to announce the end of the so-called tampon tax. Malhorta predicted the tax could be driven down to zero by as early as 2017.

“Women’s sanitary products are not a luxury. George Osborne should take the opportunity in his budget to say that he will take the action called for by Labour and feminist campaigners and seek to get the tampon tax abolished,” she said.

“He should also make it clear that the funding for women’s organizations and domestic violence charities linked to the ‘tampon tax’ will be maintained after a zero rate is achieved. It’s the right step forward and it’s time for action,” Malhorta said.