For any one who may not know much on the matter, nature has it so that every 28 days on average, women in a fertile age get their menstrual cycle. While often relieving, for the precise reasons that this is a symptom of a well-functioning body, and one that is also baby-free for those who are not ready to become mothers, this is in no way a choice we have. Said periods often come with sharp muscle contractions, nausea, mood swings, and more. Although worth noting that this isn’t the case for every woman, the experience is not of the most pleasurable. In fact, it often adds to the list of daily tasks we must deal with. Some, however, consider this biological effect a luxury.
In fact, in numerous countries all female hygiene products, tampons and sanitary towels alike, are taxed on the same basis as “luxury goods.” Indeed, they are not considered a basic necessity, but rather items that are categorized alongside products such as tickets to the zoo, eatable sugar flowers, and exotic meats such as kangaroo or crocodile.
If this sounds as senseless as it does to me, then you’d expect that most governments would have proceeded to create reasonable legislation to fix the issue. Sadly, the majority is still lagging behind when it comes to reasonable economic platforms vis-à-vis a predetermined biological phenomenon.
It appears that the European Commission has been agreeing with this stance since 1977 when the term for “essential” products was first defined. In fact, it is the European Union that governs the application of VAT in each member state, both in relation to rates and flexibilities. In applicable terms, this means that a country such as the UK, that taxes these products at 5%, is already taxing at the lowest permitted rate under EU regulation.
For any EU member state that wishes to acknowledge the discrepancy, reducing these tampons and sanitary towels to a zero tax rate is virtually impossible, or rather illegal. Rest assured though, Europe is not the only place unable to lead a movement to end this regulatory discrimination against women.
The US has a grand majority of states that still tax tampons, and other female hygiene items as luxury products. With the exception of four states that have no sale tax, a remaining 41 have yet to change the regulation, and currently support a system that considers a woman’s period, and all the subsequent measures to take, luxury.
The realization that this is indeed discrimination hits hard. What’s more? It is well-implemented discrimination within state regulation. Increasingly, protests and petitions online (check out the one on Change.org!) are creating a conversation to raise awareness on the issue with the hopes that one day this will reach legislative reform.
I end with a quote that is not
particularly luxurious, but one that certainly resonates. May this remind us all that the issue at hand requires not only the voices of both genders, but also the recognition that it is much larger than simply over-priced tampons and sanitary towels.
“When a man’s bleeding, he gets a zero-rated plaster to stem the flow. When a woman bleeds *every month*, that’s a luxury. #tampontax”
— Holly Brockwell (@holly) October 29, 2015