The student union at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, is now selling sanitary products profit free. As a result, the cost of some sanitary items in the union shop has been almost halved.
The decision was made almost unanimously after the Union Council debated the issue and ultimately decided that the charging of VAT on sanitary products is unfair and unnecessary. Tampons, towels and mooncups will now be sold at the price it costs the shop to buy them, meaning that students can now buy some products for as little as 99p.
Items that are considered “essential” are exempt from VAT, a sales tax that currently stands at 20%. Sanitary products are charged at the reduced rate of 5%, which may seem much more reasonable – at least, until you realise that the list of VAT exempted items includes sheet music and Jaffa Cakes.
The motion was met with applause when it was proposed by the Union’s Women’s Officer Dolly Ugunrinde, who said, “It is a disgrace that sanitary products are being taxed at the rate of a ‘luxury item’ when they simply are essentials for so many women. I am proud to say that the University of East Anglia is now selling them at no profit and feel that other student unions should follow suit!”
The Union has highlighted the importance of widely and cheaply available sanitary products in a statement on their website, pointing out that improvised, homemade alternatives can put women at risk of infection. They called the VAT charge “unethical”, especially considering how expensive many female students can already find having a period: some have to buy painkillers to get through a day, or even miss shifts at work as a result of the pain caused.
The University’s Feminist Society called it a “highly significant” decision, and said that they hope other UK universities follow suit in providing these essential products at a low cost. Qmunicate would be delighted to see Glasgow’s student unions debate the motion.
[Lauren Cummings – @__laurenC]