Tesco just became the first supermarket in the United Kingdom to cover the cost of the controversial “tampon tax” for customers.
Now, 100 sanitary products will cost 5% less at Tesco — accounting for the tax that the government adds to menstrual products — because the supermarket announced it will pay the VAT, or luxury tax, itself, instead of waiting for the government.
The tax will be repealed in full in 2018, after former Prime Minister David Cameron persuaded the UK government to repeal from tampons, pads, and other sanitary products last year last year.
“Tesco’s new period scheme is a bold and brave one. Reducing their period products by 5% to cover tampon tax not only helps our protest against the sexist tax, but it also helps to fight period poverty across the UK, too,” Laura Coryton, who started the “Stop Taxing Periods” Change.org petition in the UK told the Huffington Post.
“This is an important breakthrough, it means Britain will be able to have a zero-rate VAT for sanitary products, meaning the end of the tampon tax,” Cameron said during a speech to the House of Commons in March 2016.
For Tesco, 2018 was too far into the future, and waiting that long would unfairly affect too many women.
“For many of our customers, tampons, panty-liners and sanitary towels are essential products,” Michelle McEttrick, Tesco group brand director, said in a statement. “However, the cost of buying them every month can add up, and for many women and girls it can be a real struggle on top of other essential items. That’s why we are reducing the cost of these products by 5%.”
This isn’t the first time Tesco has made a business decision that doubled as an act of gender equality, either.
In January, Tesco, reduced the price of women’s razors so they would cost the same as men’s shaving products.
As the UK begins ending what is widely considered to be an unfair tax against women, other countries are following their lead.
In India, where 300 million girls miss out on school during their period, over 200,000 have signed a petition to end taxes on sanitary products.
Australia held a vote to strike down the tampon tax, but it failed. And the United States has made some progress on the country’s “pink tax.” In the past year, Illinois and New York joined 10 other states to end taxes on sanitary products.
A developing country, meanwhile, may be doing the most to help women access the health products they need.
In June, the Kenyan government announced a new law to provide school girls free sanitary products.
In the years ahead, that may be the standard that countries aspire to.
“I hope to see more retailers following their groundbreaking footsteps. Period!” the campaigner, Coryton, said.