Labour MP Janet Daby has joined more than 70 MPs to urge Philip Hammond to make period products free for all girls and women.
In the Spring Statement in March this year the Chancellor announced the government will supply free period products to all girls in secondary education, and from next year the Department of Education will work closely with schools and colleges to introduce the scheme.
In a letter to the Treasury, Ms Daby, MP for Lewisham East, called on Mr Hammond to provide free sanitary products to all women. She said: “Menstruating is stigmatised, hidden, costly and potentially dangerous if we cannot access hygienic menstruating products. That is why a human rights-based approach whereby rights to access period products are at the very centre of our policies and practices.”
According to the children’s charity Plan International, women will spend an average of £18,000 in their lifetime on sanitary products. While pads and tampons are zero-rated for VAT in Ireland, women in the UK are still charged 5% VAT as feminine hygiene products are deemed a ‘luxury item’.
Activist Amika George, who lead the #FreePeriods movement, said: “Currently, we pay tampon tax on menstrual products as they are classed as luxury items, whereas Jaffa cakes are not. Jaffa cakes are seen as a necessary, essential item.”
Ms George said that making political decisions based on gender is gender-based discrimination at its core and the campaigner argues that if we want to achieve equality between the two sexes, we need to live in a world where women’s needs are met.
She added: “If men can walk into any public bathroom and get toilet paper and soap, which is everything they need to meet basic sanitary requirements, then free of charge pads and tampons must be made available to women too.”