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Tampon makers could help reduce violence against women

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 28 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3465

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Re: Tampon makers could help reduce violence against women

In the UK, tampons and other sanitary products are taxed at 5%. Recently, European regulations have placed the power to tax feminine hygiene products on EU states1,2 . This meant that the UK could change taxation rates for these products (of course, there is now uncertainty ahead for the UK post ‘Brexit’). Given that tampons and other sanitary products are necessary for women for a significant proportion of their lives, some countries have removed taxes on these products3. In 2015, the UK Chancellor, George Osborne, announced that he intended to direct £15m raised from this tax towards charities, such as SafeLives and Women’s Aid. Although money to fund prevention programs and services is sorely needed, we believe that funding such programmes by taxing women on (necessary) feminine products is a superficial and insufficient solution to the issue of violence towards women, and perpetuates gendered price discrimination.

Firstly, such an approach perpetuates the detrimental notion that violence towards women is solely a woman’s issue4; and it certainly does not cover the cost needed to fund violence against women programmes. The prevention of violence against women requires a multifaceted, societal approach. Diverting taxes or a percentage of profits of products solely consumed by women for this purpose and framing it as ‘corporate social responsibility’, as the author suggested, is plainly asking women to help pay for their own domestic abuse and violence services. Taxing (necessary) feminine products also contributes to the economic burden of women across the world. Dubbed the ‘pink tax’, women already pay more for their personal hygiene products than men do for the equivalent products5.

Violence against women is an issue for all of us, whether male or female: it affects children growing up in our society witnessing abuse, and those at risk of perpetrating violence as they themselves age 6; we may have a neighbour who we rarely see as they are in a coercively controlling relationship; it could be a work colleague who has become quieter. These are our children, our sisters, neighbours, brothers, friends, and colleagues. Violence is an issue for all of us, not just for women and certainly not for women alone to pay for. Many already do, with their health and lives.

Gendered price discrimination is real, contributes to women’s economic burden, and should be seen as a problem, not as a way to help fund charities or framed as ‘corporate social responsibility’. Rather than taxing women, such taxes should be abolished. Instead, governments should promote a societal approach to ending violence towards women.


1. European Council. European Council conclusions 17-18/3/2016: Press release 143/16. Authors March 2016. [Available from
2. Seely A. Briefing paper: VA on sanitary protection (Number 01128). UK: House of Commons Library April 2016. Available from
3. Watters H. 'Tampon tax' will end July 1: The government tables motion Thursday to lift federal tax on feminie hygiene products. CBC News May 2015. Available from
4. George R. Should the tampon tax be used to help domestic violence victims? The Guardian November 2015 [Available from:
5. Shaw H. 'Pink tax' has women paying 43% more for their toileries than men'. Financial post April 2016. [Available from
6. Tharp AT, DeGue S, Valle LA, et al. A Systematic Qualitative Review of Risk and Protective Factors for Sexual Violence Perpetration. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse 2013;14(2):133-67.

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 July 2016
Karen Lorimer
Senior Research Fellow
Kelly Babchishin, Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, The Royal's Institute of Mental Health Research, Canada.
Glasgow Caledonian University
Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, Scotland, G4 0BA