There is no way of dancing around this—sanitary pads and tampons are a necessity for half of the world’s population, who on average use them for about a week, twelve times a year, for 30 or more years. Nonetheless, until lately, they have been taxed like any other beauty product or basic good. Now more countries are considering a tax removal, and New Zealand is one of them. Government agency Pharmac has recently announced that a funding application for the sanitary products is being assessed. If approved, it would lead to either a partial or total removal of the current 15 percent GST.
The move has been positively welcomed by NZ charities and is also part of a much wider debate.
Over the past two years, campaigns and petitions demanding the removal of the so-called ‘tampon tax’ have started to pour in a number of countries, marking the birth of a global movement. Under Justin Trudeau, the ever-progressive Canada officially halted sales tax on tampons, pads and menstrual cups, whereas France cut down the tampon tax from 20 percent to 5.5 percent. But, elsewhere, lawmakers have not been as supportive. In 2015, Australia’s states and territories decided to keep the 10 percent GST on sanitary products. In the UK, where the tampon tax had already been reduced to 5 percent in 2000, a removal was recently ruled out.
As for the European Union, its legislation imposes minimum rates; therefore, a 0 percent taxation cannot be an option. On the opposite, the United States leaves the decision up to its member states. Between 1975 and 2005, only five states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Minnesota) dropped the tampon tax, but as the issue gained political traction, more have finally followed suit (Utah, Virginia, California and Michigan to name a few).
Not everyone shares the same level of enthusiasm, and critics have dismissed tax elimination efforts as unimportant. Nonetheless, both supporters and lawmakers see it as a symbolic matter, a way to trigger a debate over gender inequality, and a health issue for those who resort to makeshift means because they can’t afford to pay extra.