It’s not a luxury. It’s about quality of life.
On July 1, Canada will remove the goods and services tax and harmonized sales tax on pads, tampons, sanitary belts, menstrual cups and other similar products. In places like the U.K., Australia, and certain states in the U.S., the pressure is on after this win for protesters against the “tampon tax.”
In Australia, the few items exempt from the 10% Goods and Services Tax include incontinence pads, condoms, sunscreen, and other health items the government has identified as important. Sanitary products are notably absent.
Subeta Vimalarajah, a Sydney University student and opponent to the tampon tax, told the BBC:
“I’ve definitely had the experience of going to the supermarket to buy a box of tampons and being frustrated that I need to pay for them, but more significantly that the government is making a profit on my period. The biggest factor that annoys me is the inconsistency.”
“It’s one thing to make everything taxable, but it’s different when the government has identified ‘important’ health goods as exempt, but refuses to acknowledge sanitary products as in this category,” Vimalarajah continued. “I can’t see the distinction between incontinence pads, nicotine patches, sunscreen and condoms (which are exempt) and sanitary products.”
In the U.K., tampons and pads have a luxury tax of 5%. With a self-describing name, the luxury tax labels sanitary items as non-essential. Think about that. Sanitary items are practically a necessity for anyone who has to deal with having their period, and are among some of the most vied for but least donated items for the homeless.
If you’re at a place where you can no longer afford the extra expense that pads and tampons cost, then it bars you from ever getting to a place where you could begin to afford them. If you’re left bleeding out on yourself and your clothes, it becomes increasingly difficult to join any workforce as you’re incapable of work for about a week every month. Furthermore, increasing the affordability of these items also promotes public health.
Often, proponents argue that the change in price isn’t that great of a difference and that taxes are beneficial to our governments. While this may be true (varying from region to region), I think anyone who has to buy these products can attest for the yearly cost these items amount to. Jezebel has calculated the following:
$6.79 per box at Drugstore.com, at 9 boxes of tampons per year: $61.11
$7.99 per package of maxi pads at Drugstore.com, at 7 packages a year: $59.43
And on average, a woman will use more than 11,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime.
As for taxes, a lot of people seem uncomfortable that the government wants to benefit off products made to aid an often painful natural process that they can’t change.
With the emergence of reusable products like menstrual cups and cloth pads, though, people also feel that a one-time investment is smarter than using disposable solutions. On average, a menstrual cup costs about $27, but puts you at a high risk for infection. Both cloth pads and menstrual cups require care and attention towards their upkeep and cleaning, which is time that a lot of working users may not have. Furthermore, the disposal of collected blood in a menstrual blood proves to be a little more challenging and unsanitary in public spaces.
So, yeah, sanitary items are definitely as necessary as, say, razors or sunscreen.
No one would like it if we all went free flow.
And if you’re not okay with me bleeding out on your expensive furniture, then reconsider calling tampons and pads as “luxuries” or “non-essential.”