1. ITV Report

Campaign to #EndTamponTax to go before George Osborne after topping 188,000 signatures

By Charlotte Cross

A campaign demanding a Europe-wide end to the taxation of sanitary items will be presented to Chancellor George Osborne after reaching almost 200,000 signatures.

Sanitary items, including disposable and reusable products, are currently subject to a reduced five per cent VAT rate - but protesters say this is still too much.

Tens of thousands of people from around the world have now signed an online petition calling on the UK government to recognise how essential the basic items are to maintaining a normal life during menstruation.

The petition has reached almost 200,000 signatures Credit: PA

Goldsmiths university student Laura Coryton, aged 21, first set up the petition nine months ago, when a friend opened her eyes to the fact sanitary products were classed as a 'luxury item' in the eyes of the taxman.

Within a week, the petition had 2,000 signatures, and continued to grow slowly until the campaign set up dedicated social media accounts.

Within a matter of days, that figure then shot up to more than 150,000 signatures - and now stands at more than 188,000.

It reflects other campaigns around the world - including this one in Australia from 2000 Credit: Reuters

Laura and a group of supporters will now be heading to Downing Street on March 11 to present their petition to George Osborne.

I never thought that the petition would attract this many supporters because it is both about periods, a taboo subject that is often hushed from public ears, and taxation, a subject that fills people both with dread and confusion.

It’s an amazing feeling to know that people genuinely care about female representation and the fairness of tax allocations, which should reflect the needs of everyone in society.

– Laura Coryton, campaign founder

VAT on sanitary items was first introduced in 1973, at the full 17.5 per cent. After much campaiging, this was reduced at the turn of the century to five per cent - but EU regulations prevent the tax from being abolished completely.

Campaigners argue that sanitary products are a necessity, not a luxury Credit: PA

Originally from Devon, Laura is now hoping to galvanise support from across the continent to turn that around.

A male-dominated Parliament of 1973 may have been able to freely side-line issues they claimed to have no understanding of, but this androcentricity should not continue to damage the pockets of women today.

We are primarily working on two initiatives: firstly, we want to see that Westminster backs our campaign so that our second long-term goal can be achieved.

This campaign can only fully succeed when the European Union agrees to exempt sanitary products from tax across Europe - and this will only happen when all EU countries call for change, which is something we believe is possible, but only with the primary backing of Westminster.

– Laura Coryton, campaign founder
The poster from a similar campaign being waged in France Credit:

A fan of activist Caroline Criado-Perez's campaign to keep women on banknotes, Laura said she - like Criado-Perez - has experienced trolling from people unimpressed by her efforts, though not to the same extent.

It is a feminist petition and so naturally (and sadly) it is going to attract negative attention.

Some trolls have argued that 'women shouldn’t complain so much… get a piece of used newspaper, scrunch it up, roll it up and shove it up', asking 'what is wrong with the current crop of modern women?', while others have claimed we are 'spitting our feminist poison on the world' for starting the campaign.

However, the overwhelming majority of messages we have received over the past nine months have been of support.

We don’t respond to trolls. I for one am proud to be a part of the modern ‘crop’ of women who aren’t afraid to get their voices heard.

– Laura Coryton, campaign founder
The poster for the Canadian campaign Credit:

A number of UK universities have already voiced their support for scrapping the so-called 'Tampon Tax', including Goldsmiths itself.

The Students' Union there passed a motion last month to start selling sanitary products at wholesale cost to compensate for the VAT, meaning the shop makes no profit from the items.

Sarah El-alfy, SU education officer, said the perception that sanitary items were a 'luxury' needed to change.

Our stance is simply that we believe sanitary products are not, in any way, a luxury item.

There is an inherent sexism in taxing something which only women have to pay for.

And it's part of a bigger issue - it has financial implications as well. You don't really have a choice whether to buy them or not, and this tax is taking advantage of that. It's just unfair.

– Sarah El-alfy, Goldsmiths Students' Union

Other universities have made similar moves - East Anglia announced at the end of last year that it would be selling products at cost price, while the University of the Arts went one step further and began handing them out for free.

Other campaigns have also started around the world calling for similar action, including online petitions in France and Canada.

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