Paying tax on tampons and other sanitary items is effectively being tolled for having a uterus.
That’s what hundreds of thousands of women and men around the world believe, and they are hoping to put a stop to it.
The “Tampon Tax” has hit the media by force this past year with dozens of movements aimed at eliminating the various taxes placed worldwide on female sanitary products. In Canada, the movement targets the Federal Government’s Goods and Services Tax (GST), an extra five per cent placed on goods parliament deems “non-essential”.
While many items are exempt or zero-rated (GST charge of zero per cent), such as groceries and prescription drugs, tampons are not. This makes many question the government’s perception of “non-essential”, especially seeing that items such as music lessons, tobacco leaves and agriculture products are classified as “essential” and are not taxed.
Apparently learning piano scales is more important to the federal government than a woman being able to leave the house for 10 to 12 weeks of the year.
Thus, several Change.org petitions have cropped up in support of abolishing what is now known as the “Tampon Tax”. The largest, a petition out of the UK, has over 200,000 supporters and decries Parliament for standing by a tax that has “restricted the public’s access to healthcare and constrained their ability to consume a vital range of products for decades.”
In the UK, women were taxed 17.5 per cent on tampons from 1973 to 2001 when, after much campaigning, the tax was lowered to 5 per cent.
The Canadian petition makes note that the government likely collected a cool $36,398,387 in 2014 tax revenues, “because our uteruses did what they do naturally”.
All in all, the price of buying tampons in Canada, along with the five per cent tax, isn’t a huge expense for many women, but the extra cost could be a burden on those who struggle to afford the monthly necessity to begin with.
At London Drugs, for example, a box of 40 Tampax tampons costs approximately $9.49, as advertised on their website. With a 12 per cent tax, seven per cent PST and five per cent GST, the total cost comes in at $10.63. Together, both taxes add $1.14 to each box.
Estimating that a woman uses roughly 20 tampons per cycle, we can assume that about six 40-pack boxes are purchased each year, totalling $63.78 in expenses. That is a $6.84 tax on a year’s supply of tampons.
With about 11,000 tampons being used by a woman during her lifetime, that adds up to a total of $313.50 spent on taxes alone.
But to many, it’s not the extra cost that is the point; it is the government’s attitude toward women’s natural reproductive cycle.
Author of the UK Change.org petition, Laura Croyton, told The Telegraph that this taxation is another example of the misogyny that is still all too common.
“I think women have been made to feel shameful about menstruation for a very long time and I think the period taboo needs to be challenged and I think it has no relevance whatsoever. Having a period should be if anything something you celebrate because it shows you’re in good health … It’s important to overturn mainly because of the original reason the tax was placed – which was because a really male dominated parliament thought sanitary products weren’t essential.”
The Canadian petition was started by Toronto resident, Jill Piebiak, and appeals to Minister of National Revenue, Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay. With 60,277 supporters as of today, the petition needs 75,000 to get the go-ahead.
Goldie Hoffman, a B.C. advocate for the campaign, told Global BC earlier this week that sales tax on tampons and other sanitary products was unjust.
“It is essentially an unfair, sexist and discriminatory tax that only effects women.”
Hoffman’s point rings extremely loud, especially when more obscure items are sold GST-free. Products such as incontinent products, cocktail cherries, human sperm and wedding cakes are not subject to the federal tax.
With numerous petitions online, over 300,000 people have pledged their support to abolish taxes on tampons.