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Opinion: Tampon Tax hinders Gender Equality

As a woman in America, whose rights always seem to be a hot-button issue no matter what, the recent awareness that the so-called tampon tax in the recent days has intrigued me at best, and disgusted me at its worse.

A tampon tax is a term used by activists and detractors to bring awareness to the fact that feminine hygiene products—menstrual pads, tampons, and sanitary napkins—are charged with value-added tax. It is considered at odds with the tax-exempt status granted to basic necessities products, which are not charged with this tax.

Kenya was the first get rid of sales tax for menstrual products, starting the discussion and change in the West. Tampon taxes in Canada were removed on July 1, 2015, and currently, they are being contested and discussed in the United Kingdom. In the United States, Virginia’s House of Finance advanced a bill that would remove the sales tax on menstrual products.

As of now, Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon do not have a state sales tax at all, and as of 2017, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania specifically exempted feminine hygiene products.

Looking at the taxes themselves, almost every state taxes ‘tangible property’ and exempts non-luxury items, whose necessity status varies by state. Common items such as groceries, prescriptions, prosthetics, and some brands of clothes are all things needed for basic survival for many people.

Proponents argue that tampons and simple products are basic, unarguable necessities for women and so should not be charged and be made tax exempt. A rough estimate by the BBC states that those who identify as women and use menstrual products–half of the global population–would need the products for a week every month for 30 years.

Since the majority of consumers of feminine hygiene products are women, the increased cost can successfully be argued as being discriminatory in nature. The view of them as a ‘non-necessity’, despite evidence to contrary, is beyond worrying.

In California, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia led the movement of introducing Bill 1561, which proposed an end to the tampon tax in the state after a worrying amount of evidence popped up. According to the data acquired by her office, Californian women paid  $7 per month for 40 years, just for tampons and sanitary napkins. 

“I think a lot of women have at some point, thought about it, you know?” Garcia said. “I just want people to realize this is not insignificant, especially if you’re on a tight budget, and this is just the first step in a long discussion we need to be having.”

The argument for tampon-tax outside of age-old sexism points out that tax exemption status on more items just raises taxes on other, ‘luxury’ items, but I counter that is more of a fault of the tax system as a whole than tampons. I see the tampon tax as unnecessary and poorly aged, a reminder of how our nation that was built on freedom, hasn’t always come cheap. Getting rid of an arguably sexist and unarguably damaging tax seems like the necessary first step.

Related Links

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