On the rag. Shark Week. Visit from Aunt Flo. Girl Flu. Code Red. It’s that time of the month… and my favourite, Riding the Cotton Pony!
I’m sure some of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Don’t worry, it’s all girl code for ‘periods’.
It’s the time of the month when some of us feel we can only wear black pants, have multiple mood swings and nearly overdose on Panadol. Being a woman can be bloody hard! But since 1 July 2000, being a woman has also come at a cost. All because former Liberal Prime Minister, John Howard (a man), thought it would be a good idea that all women’s sanitary products like tampons and pads be subject to GST.
Taxing the products that assist in managing a female bodily function – I don’t think so! It’s time to stop this bloody tax!
Good ol’ periods
What comes with being a woman is menstrual cycles and periods. The menstrual cycle is the hormonal process a woman’s body goes through each month to prepare for a possible pregnancy.
However, if a woman doesn’t fall pregnant, she has a period which is when she bleeds from the vagina, releasing the blood and tissue that formed the lining of the uterus. This hormonal process on average lasts for 5 days however, it can range between 1-16 days. During this time, sanitary products such as pads and tampons are used to absorb the blood.
This may be common knowledge to some of us but there are still many, particularly men that don’t have a clue about a woman’s period and sanitary items.
Today, on average, girls experience their first period (menarche) between the ages of 10-16 in developed countries. It isn’t until they hit menopause at the age of 51, when the monthly bleeding finally stops.
So, let’s put this into perspective in the following scenario (calculations are all based on averages outlined above).
A girl first experiences her period at the age of 13. She has her period for five days every month. She reaches menopause at the age of 51.
51 years – 13 years = a woman goes through menstruation for 38 years
5 days x 12 months = a women experiences a period for 60 days per year
60 days x 38 years = during a women’s life, she has her period for a total of 2,280 days
In other words, the amount of time a woman has her period for over the entirety of her life equals nearly 6 and a half years! 6 and a half years!!!
To make those 2,280 days bearable, women outlay thousands of dollars on necessary products. Huffington Post US recently did the maths to work out how much money a woman’s period sets her back in life. Taking into consideration everything a woman buys to deal with periods such as pads, tampons, pain relief, contraception, new underwear and of course the occasional block of chocolate, the study found women spend on average during their life, $18,171. For us Aussie girls, that converts to approximately $24,100 (as of May 17, 2018).
Now that is a lot of money, even for the typical middle class woman. I can’t begin to image how hard it would be for someone less fortunate, like the homeless to look after themselves during this monthly hormonal process if that is what is costs. I’ve got to say… you males have it rather easy!
But if having your period isn’t shit enough, we still have to pay a Goods and Service Tax (GST) on our much NEEDED sanitary products; tampons and pads.
In Australia, we have to pay a Goods and Service Tax (GST). GST is a 10% tax applied to most goods and services sold or consumed in our country. The sale of a GST product is as follows – a business adds GST to the price of a product, a customer who buys the product pays the sales price plus GST, then the GST portion is collected by the business or seller and forwarded to the government.
Like other taxes, GST is a government revenue-collecting method. All GST collected by the government is pooled with other government revenue to be spent on societal needs such as infrastructure, health services and education systems.
The few goods and services that are exempt from GST are briefly outlined on the Australia Taxation Office. Exempt items are those that are considered necessities, life essentials. Therefore, any good or service not listed on the GST exemption list is considered a luxury and its price must include GST. Some exempt goods and services include:
– Basic food like fresh fruit, bread and unflavoured milk,
– Health and medical services such as hospital treatments and health insurance,
– Education courses and
– Child care
However, a more detailed list provided by The Department of Home Affairs states that items such a condoms, personal lubricants, viagra and nicotine patches are also exempt from GST.
Sorry to break it to you girls, but put simply, the government believes sanitary items such as tampons and pads are luxury items and we must pay GST on them.
As I approach ‘that time of the month’, I will need to make a trip to my local Woolworths to stock up on these much needed supplies. At Woolworths, I will most likely buy a regular pack of 14 Libra Tampons for $4 and a regular pack of 14 Libra Pads also for $4. Each purchase will include 36 cents of GST ($4/11). I get it, 72 cents for those two items may not seem much. But if I spend 72 cents every second month to stock up on sanitary products for 38 years, that $164.16 being paid in GST. That’s $164.16 my boyfriend doesn’t have to pay. It is this gender based inequality and discrimination that is the problem.
Is it fair to say our government doesn’t care or believe in female health and hygiene? It was past Health Minister Michael Woolridge who likened feminine hygiene items to shaving cream, saying “well, as a bloke, I’d like shaving cream exempt, but I’m not expecting it to be”. Woolridge, shaving is a choice, periods aren’t!
Sanitary items just don’t make the cut
Seriously? Products that help keep a woman’s vagina, vajayjay, downstairs… whatever you want to call it, clean and hygienic are considered luxury items…
Tampons are medical necessities not luxury items. Having your period is an unpleasant but necessary bodily process, not a luxurious experience.
Labor’s Tanya Plibersek recently showed her support to remove the tax by arguing that “it was a dumb decision [to tax tampons] when we made it in 1999, and 20 years later, it’s still a dumb decision and we have to fix it. Australia levies the GST on tampons but we don’t apply it to Viagra. Only a bunch of blokes sitting around a table would think that that was a good decision.”
Plibersek also acknowledged that it would cost ‘bugger all’ to remove GST on menstrual products and wouldn’t really have an effect on the total amount of GST collected. Figures from last financial year state that Australia’s GST revenue totalled $113,331 million, approximately $35 to $40 million which would have came from sanitary products.
The push to remove the tax from women’s sanitary products has been going on since the tax was first introduced in 2000, but more so within the last 5 years. In 2015, people dressed up as tampons and pads and protested outside Parliament House in Canberra. Last year, the Greens actually took a proposal to the Federal Senate to remove the tax, but it was unsuccessful.
Despite these unsuccessful attempts to remove GST from women’s sanitary products, we will not give up. Like the suffragettes and feminists before us, we will continue to stand up for women’s rights… even if it is in black pants.
If you would like to help ‘Axe the Period Tax’, please click here to sign the petition.