Recently, George Osborne announced that the £15 million raised by the tax on menstrual products will be given to women’s charities that provide support for victims of domestic abuse, such as Women’s Aid. I think pretty much everyone can agree the tampon tax is ridiculous; those who menstruate are forced to pay for the biological workings of their body. Some argue that while we still have the tampon tax it is worth making the best of a bad situation – to at least use this money for ‘women’s issues’.
But domestic violence isn’t a women’s issue. The support for domestic violence victims should not fall to only some of the population. And this should definitely not be based on the natural process of producing eggs every month. The message Osborne is sending when he smugly announced his plans in the spending review was that it is the responsibility of women to fund, protect and provide support for themselves. Two women a week are killed by a current or ex-partner in the UK. One trans woman of colour is killed every week. 1 in 4 women will suffer domestic violence in their lifetime. Police receive a phone call related to domestic violence every 30 seconds. It is undeniable – domestic abuse services and refuges are crucial. Yet the Tory government has seen it suitable to cut funding to these essential services.
domestic violence isn’t a women’s issue
The first two years of the previous government saw a 31% cut in funding for domestic violence and sexual abuse services, and 32 refuge centres were forced to close. In 2014, support for domestic abuse services in Devon was cut by 42%. In 2013-2014, nearly a third of people seeking refuge had to be turned away due to lack of space. Every day between 150 and 300 women are turned away from refuges. What choice does this leave domestic abuse victims? To return to their abusive partners? To turn to the streets? These refuges literally save lives.
These cuts come amongst wider Tory austerity. Austerity disproportionately effects women, particularly women of colour, low-income women and other marginalised genders. In short, these are people who actually need more support due to systemic oppression. The detrimental effects of Tory cuts goes so much deeper than just cuts to local authorities and charities. The implementation of the bedroom tax hits domestic abuse survivors, who rely on panic rooms, which are now becoming classified as ‘spare rooms’. Applicants have to prove their need for support and legal aid. Not only is it near-impossible to provide evidence of abuse from a long period of time, it is cruel and harmful to force women to re-live it. The only money left for these services is local councils’ core grants. Given the ever decreasing financial support from the government, it is highly unlikely this small pot of money will be utilised for domestic violence services. Therefore it is clear: the government doesn’t care about women, it doesn’t care about domestic violence victims and the vital support they need.
So how was this forgotten when Osborne made his announcement? Osborne’s ‘clever’ plan to use money from menstrual products for women’s charities covers up the fact they only need more support in the first place due to his budget cutting their funding. It helps him to justify the archaic, sexist tampon tax. People opposing his plan might be painted as opposing women’s charities: how could we possibly want to take away £15 million from these organisation and services, you might ask. But I don’t want to take away any money from these services. I want the government to stop making money from the uncontrollable biological workings of over half the population. I want the government itself to provide the financial support for these life-saving services, rather than putting it all on the shoulders of women and others who menstruate.
domestic violence is a societal issue
Domestic violence is not a women’s issue; domestic violence is a societal issue. It is not the responsibility of women to provide the funds and support for these services; it is the government’s responsibility to protect and provide for their people, especially those who are most vulnerable. Even though our government shows no signs of attempting to abolish the tampon tax – Osborne himself voted against a move to force negotiations about the tax with the EU – imagine if one miraculous day, the tampon tax was abolished. Where would the funding for these services come from then?
Osborne, if you really care about violence towards women, women’s charities and domestic abuse refuges, create a sustainable, fair policy that doesn’t capitalise on unavoidable biological processes, and actually take responsibility for helping your own people.
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