Should we have to pay for our periods?

FreeTheP Susannah Hunt Director of Free The P Campaign '14

Modern women in 2014 have so many more rights and freedoms than those only a few decades ago. They can vote, manage their own form of contraception and, for the most part, experience equality in the workplace. However, one thing has not changed; they still get periods and still have to pay for something they cannot avoid.

Why is it that contraception (specifically condoms), nicotine patches, abortions and even housing is paid for by the government, but female sanitary products are not? Tampons and towels are still officially classified as 'luxuries' and are taxed at 5%, whereas men's razors are considered 'essentials' and are VAT free. Smoking, shaving and use of contraceptives are all personal choices; yet being a woman isn't a decision half the country's population has any control over.

The average woman spends approximately £6 per 28-day cycle on sanitary products - that's more than £77 per year. The average age for a girl to start her period is 12 and a half, and the average age for menopause to start is 51: this means that the average British female is spending more than £3000* in her lifetime on being a woman - enough to buy a car! This is not an expense men have to pay, so why should women? In the UK, the women are paid on average 18.6% less per hour than men - minus the extra money they pay on sanitary ware.

There have been campaigns in the past to bring down the VAT on sanitary products, but this just is not enough. The companies who make these products will just keep pushing their prices up and up, because they can. There is never going to be a shortage of customers for pads or tampons, because there is never going to be a shortage of healthy women in this country - or the world!

Therefore, the government has a duty to women, as it does to the drug addicts, alcoholics and smokers they provide free treatment for: female sanitary products should be distributed by the government free of charge as an alternative. There should be a range of shapes and sizes, like over-priced brands offer us, but no evidence of marketing. The same way that they provide standard issue condoms, they should provide standard issue sanitary ware for those who want it.

Those with well-paid jobs may not mind splashing out on a bit of extra quality, and so the over-priced giants, such as Always and Tampax, may continue to exist; but now at least women would be given the choice between spending thousands of pounds...or not. 

But surely if you're asking for free sanitary products, next you'll be asking for free food, water, oil, electricity...?

Some may argue that this would cause things to get out of control, and next everyone would be asking for the 'essentials' needed for unobstructed life in modern society. This would not be the case and is not the basis of this cause - the reason it is unfair is because it is only women who have to pay these extra expenses.

If everyone gets free sanitary ware, the private market will collapse and our economy will fail even more than it has done already!

Our aim is not to nationalise all sanitary product brands. We merely think that as a fundamental human right, women should have access to a basic, standard-issue form of sanitary ware as an alternative to branded products. Durex was sold in 2010 for £2.54bn, showing that although a cheap version of their product is provided by the government, they still have a huge market for their products. This could be the case for sanitary items. The primary reason for the provision of free contraceptives is to save expense for the NHS by reducing the spread of STDs, and we understand this - the basis of our cause is that from a moral point of view, the captive target market of women should not be exploited in this way by these vastly over-expensive brands.

How do you propose this scheme would be paid for?

This petition is not an economic one, but a moral one. We aim to raise awareness of the issue and do more than eliminate VAT on sanitary products; we want the government to provide a version that is 100% free - so that the choice is there. Those women who have well paid, secure jobs may well choose to continue paying thousands to these companies for the sake of extra luxury, but for those to whom more than £3000 would go a long way, having that option could improve their quality of life considerably. So the government should find space in their budget to pay for this movement, as there is strong evidence to suggest that they will not be paying for a lifetime supply of sanitary products for the entire female population of Britain - just those who want it. 

PLEASE NOTE that although anyone can sign this petition, it is directed at the British Government, and in Britain we already have an established healthcare system, the NHS, which the US does not have - therefore a request for a free standardised form of sanitary ware is not as absurd as some from the US have been arguing, as many other 'essential' items are provided free of charge already.


Follow @freethep on Instagram To sign the petition! Inquiries:

Further reading: We need to talk about periods | The case for free tampons


Your StoriesErin Bagwell