Although tampons and pads have been taxed our entire lives, this issue is only now in the era of equality battles and feminist waves being hotly debated.
The idea of tampons being taxed as a luxury is baffling to almost every woman: these products are crucial for females to live a normal everyday life. Feminine hygiene products are already expensive as it is; adding this tax wrongfully makes it so much worse for the average woman.
The value-added tax (VAT) was introduced to the world during World War I by France and Germany. Through a series of changes, the VAT reached the version that we use today in 1954. It was used to pay for the process of production of the item being sold.
Yet this tax is only placed on luxury products or items that are deemed unnecessary. So food, clothes, medication, and others are often VAT free. This means feminine hygiene products are considered unnecessary by those who imposed this tax.
Even if feminine hygiene products have been categorised a “medical device” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some countries in the world still think it should not be considered a necessity. Many have argued to maintain the tax as these products are not used to treat, prevent, diagnose or cure an illness or disease.
Whatever woman you talk to will tell you menstrual products are essential and a burden. A box of tampons which will hopefully last you the entirety of your cycle will cost around $7-15 depending on the country or state you live in. For women who are struggling to make ends meet, this high price tag forces them to have to make the decision between being hygienic or eating.
This becomes a health issue as well, as not using these products means you have to spend your day in dirty clothes, which can lead to infections. Using pads for longer than they are recommended can lead to rashes, infections, and a higher chance of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), a disease that can lead to death if not treated. Hence, the women who are trying to make their box of tampons last as long as possible are putting themselves in danger.
Even if someone is not struggling economically, the price of these products still affects them heavily. All women are different, but it is estimated that they spend $2148.32 on feminine products in a lifetime. Approximately $108.53 goes into VAT if the rate is 5%. However, this tax varies around the world and can range from 5% to 11%. This range causes the amount of money that goes into VAT to vary, meaning that some women are paying over $800 in taxes simply for having periods.
According to Cristina Garcia a California assemblywoman, the taxes collected in her state from menstrual products alone accumulate $20 million a year. “These products are a basic necessity that should not be taxed. It’s especially unjust since the tax only impacts women, who are already suffering on the wrong end of the gender wage gap.” said the assemblywoman to The Washington Post when promoting her campaign to eliminate the tax in California.
There is no specifically male-directed product that could be compared with tampons and pads. The closest related products could be condoms, but those are considered a necessity around the world, so they are VAT free.
Once it became viral that tampons are taxed as a luxury, people have risen up to remove this tax, as a way to diminish the inequality between men and women.
Canada was the first country to take away its VAT on feminine hygiene products. In Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania menstrual products are specifically not taxed. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon don’t have a VAT at all. Britain has also been trying to eliminate the tax, so far unsuccessfully.
Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that he did believe the tax was unfair and needed to be removed. According to Marie Claire, he also ensured that all tax revenue collected from sanitary products would be donated to charity until the tax is fully removed. At this point, though, it is unknown if this is happening.
There are still many changes that need to occur, but at least now the world is aware of it and working towards greater equality.