First published by The Independent, 8th March 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May interrupted Chancellor Philip Hammond during his Spring Budget speech to remind him that it was International Women’s Day.

Hammond attempted to attribute two announcements to himself, which had been previously made by May. Ironic that a man should appropriate a woman’s work on such a day. On reflection his Budget wasn’t much better either.

Alongside £20m to support the campaign to End Violence Against Women and Girls and £5m to help people back into work after taking a career break, the Chancellor allocated £12m raised from the so-called Tampon Tax to support women’s charities.

In 2015, George Osborne announced that all revenue from VAT on sanitary products would be earmarked for women’s charities, including domestic abuse refuges. In 2016, Cameron announced that “Britain will be able to have a zero rate for sanitary products, meaning the end of the tampon tax.” Following Brexit complications, this amendment will is due by April 2018. Until then, it looks like we are stuck with Tampon Tax 2.0 and this time, the Government seems unashamed to call it so.

Ladies, they say, we’re sorry about men who abuse you, and we’re a bit short on cash at the moment to help you out in these situations, so how about you pay for domestic violence shelters with your vaginas. You buy tampons, we tax them, and then we’ll use the money for vital services.

Domestic violence affects one in four women in their lifetime and leads to two women being murdered every week. Domestic violence has more repeat victims than any other crime. On average, there will be 35 assaults before a victim calls the police. Each year, 400 people who have been taken into hospital for domestic violence injuries in previous six months go on to commit suicide.

Since the roll-out of austerity measures in 2010, more than 30 specialist domestic violence services have been forced to close their doors due to lack of funding. In 2016, the grants given to local authorities by the central government were slashed by 56 per cent.

The charity Women’s Aid found that in just one week in 2014, 369 women were turned away from 87 domestic abuse services due to a lack of capacity. It took those women immense courage to approach services in the first place, and to be turned away and denied help due to Tory policy is a cruelty beyond words.

Specialist services for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women and girls are particularly at risk. They provide a lifeline for those who would be unlikely to feel comfortable approaching a more general domestic violence organisation. Often run by BAME women, they have specific expertise in areas like female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour-based violence. These services have struggled to survive since their inception, and local authority cuts make their future very uncertain, potentially leaving thousands of vulnerable women and girls with nowhere to turn.

The token £12m for women’s charities is even more pathetic than George Osborne’s pledge of £15m in November 2016. It may seem like a great deal of money, but it’s important to remember that this pledge is a mere pittance compared to the amount of funding lost since the beginning of austerity in 2010.

Austerity was not inevitable. It was a political decision, made for political reasons. The architects of austerity knew who would end up paying the price for their programme.

On International Women’s Day, imagine the terror and suffering of women in domestic violence situations across the UK. Remember that the money extorted through the Tampon Tax is being used as an insulting and inadequate sticking plaster for the gaping wounds left in vital women’s services. We are literally paying, because of our gender, to mop up the blood and psychological damage inflicted by violent partners and family members.

Posted by:harrietpwilliamson

Writer