Britain on Friday became the latest country to transform its measures on sanitary products by abolishing the so-called tampon tax, no longer classifying the products as nonessential and eliminating extra costs that many have criticized as sexist.
The tax, a 5 percent value added rate on sanitary products such as tampons and pads, is the minimum required for members of the European Union, which classifies those goods as nonessential. With Britain’s split from the European Union this week, the tax was abolished.
“It’s been a long road to reach this point, but at last, the sexist tax that saw sanitary products classed as nonessential, luxury items can be consigned to the history books,” Felicia Willow, the chief executive of Fawcett Society, a charity that supports gender equality and women’s rights, said in a statement.
The abolishment of the tax is part of a wider government initiative to end “period poverty,” and make period products accessible to anyone regardless of financial constraints. The initiative has included rolling out free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals since last year.
“We have already rolled out free sanitary products in schools, colleges and hospitals and this commitment takes us another step closer to making them available and affordable for all women,” Chancellor Rishi Sunak of the Exchequer said in a statement.
Over the last few years, governments around the world have revised their measures on sanitary products. In November, Scotland became the first country to make period products freely available. Last year, Germany officially changed its stance on menstrual products by declaring them essential, and reducing their tax rate after they were long classified as “luxury goods.”
In the United States, Nevada, New York, Florida, Connecticut and Illinois eliminated the tax between 2016 and 2018. Canada, India, Malaysia and Australia (which also once considered the products a “luxury”) have also abolished the tax.
Women’s activists were overjoyed at the news on Friday. In 2014, when Laura Coryton was 21, she created an online petition at Change.org that aimed to abolish the tax.
Removing the tax was a yearslong effort that included Ms. Coryton hand-delivering her petition to a government office in 2016. The details of the tax elimination also revolved around Brexit, she said in an interview on Friday.
The petition found more than 300,000 supporters, putting central public pressure on the topic. “It’s really, really hard for a government to ignore that many people,” Ms. Coryton, 27, of London said.
“I never thought it would be successful because it’s about taxation and menstruation, not very popular topics,” she said.
On Friday morning, Change.org U.K. tweeted, “People power works.”