Because tampons are classified as "luxury items" rather than essential, we pay 5% VAT when we buy them. When he was chancellor, George Osborne said he was "on the verge" of making a deal with Brussels to scrap the controversial "tampon tax," but this never happened.
But while women continue to be taxed on their biological functions, there's some comfort in the knowledge that money raised from the tampon tax is awarded to women's charities.
Last week, the government announced that £12 million of tampon tax money will be distributed among 70 charities across the country. A press release mentioned several of these charities by name. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust in south London will receive £200,000 to increase the support it offers to women who are being stalked; the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre Cornwall will receive nearly £180,000 to help survivors of sexual violence and abuse.
"I’m glad that so many worthwhile organisations will benefit from this money," Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, said in the release.
However, it has since emerged that an anti-abortion group not mentioned in the press release will also benefit. Life, which says its vision is to make abortion "a thing of the past," will receive £250,000 from the tampon tax fund.
The decision to award money to Life has rightly been criticised. Labour MP Paula Sherriff told The Observer: "It will seem bitterly ironic to many women if we are taxed for our biology, only for the government to hand over that money to organisations that don't even believe we should have control over our own bodies."
Meanwhile, the End Violence Against Women Coalition said it was "surprised" to see Life's name on the list of organisations receiving tampon tax grants.
"The government set out clearly that this money would be spent in ways that would address women’s specific needs and inequalities," a representative for the Coalition told The Observer. "It is hard to understand how a service offering counselling based on the fundamental premise that abortion is wrong, to vulnerable women, can do that."