Picture this: it’s an idle Tuesday evening and you’re strolling through the supermarket, bopping to the cheesy tunes as you load up your trolley. You throw in condoms; nicotine patches; sunscreen. A sneaky packet of brownie mix. The common denominator amongst your loot? It’s all tax-free.
But chuck in a box of tampons or sanitary pads, and you’ll be slugged a 10 percent Goods and Services Tax, affectionately known as the GST. It was introduced by the Australian government in 2000 and placed on products deemed “luxuries” or non-essential.
Last time we checked, a luxury was a Sophie Hulme tote.
Tampons, pads and menstrual cups, on the other hand, are essential healthcare items used – no, needed – by 50 per cent of the population. Unlike your penchant for It-bags or even your partner’s designer stubble (hence why shaving cream is taxed), periods are not a lifestyle choice.
Sure, for some of us, the tampon tax is minute and easy to ignore, but over the course of a lifetime, sanitary products will cost each of us over $2000. Never mind the gender pay gap – currently 17.3 percent – or the fact that for many women, simply shelling out for feminine hygiene each month is a struggle. Last month, a 20-year-old WA woman was fined $500 for stealing a box of tampons.
"It's a matter of social and economic justice"
All figures aside, at the core of the tampon tax is a worrying form of structural sexism.
In New York, the levies on feminine hygiene products were repealed last week, with Governor Andrew Cuomo calling it “a matter of social and economic justice”.
According to The Guardian, eliminating the tax is expected to save New York women a whopping $10 million annually.
So why is Australia lagging behind?
In recent years, the tax has been a point of contention in Australian politics – a troupe of dancing tampons stampeding the lawns of Parliament House probably helped. But while Joe Hockey and Bill Shorten have made pledges and promises, it seems that once the dancing tampons depart, the issue is relegated to the backline. Before any bloody change is made.
Perhaps our government should take a word of advice from President Barack Obama, who has said he thinks eradicating the tax is “sensible”.
“I have no idea why states would tax [sanitary products] as luxury items,” he said earlier this year. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”
As women, we can all agree on one thing: periods are painful enough. Let’s #stopthetampontax
You can sign a petition here.