Politics June 20, 2018
Eliminate the tampon tax!
In July 2017, the Scottish government launched a pilot program that would give women in Scotland free feminine hygiene products. When it first launched, the program was only available in Aberdeen, a city along the coast of the North Sea.
On May 30, the government announced the program’s time extension and expansion to women across the country.
Women living in poverty have limited access to feminine hygiene products. According to the BBC, a worker from the Trussell Trust, an anti-poverty campaign, said:
… some women had even resorted to using toilet roll, socks or newspaper because they were unable to afford female sanitary products.”
Lack of access to hygiene products is a worldwide epidemic. This program only helps women in Scotland meaning that work has yet to be done to provide every woman with their basic human needs. On International Women’s Day in 2014, the United Nations deemed that women have a “right to water, sanitation and hygiene.”
Jyoti Sanghera, the Chief of the UN Human Rights Office Economic and Social Issues Section, said:
… stigma around menstruation and menstrual hygiene is a violation of several human rights, most importantly of the right to human dignity…”
In the same UN article, they state that only 12 percent of women in India use sanitary napkins. Over the years, several articles about the lack of access to feminine hygiene products have cited this same statistic.
12 percent means that about 88 percent of women use other options that don’t involve sanitary methods. This also means that the 88 percent are at risk of vaginal infections, among other health problems.
So, why is it that women still haven’t seen major improvements about this?
Women in the western parts of the world have significantly more access to feminine hygiene but pay a tax for their needs. In recent years, talk of the “tampon tax” has arisen as the next big political topic for women to tackle.
The tampon tax refers to the sales tax added to the purchase of feminine hygiene products. When taxed, it’s seen as a way of saying that the hygiene products women need are not a basic human necessity. That’s the main reason why major change is still in the works. When certain groups of people, don’t think women really need these products, little is done to make the changes women need.
A total of 14 states do not currently tax tampons and other sanitary products. Only five states do not have a sales tax for them (Oregon, Alaska, Delaware, Montana and New Hampshire). And states like New York, Maryland, Illinois, Florida and others, now have exemptions for the “tampon tax.”
Getting rid of the tampon tax is only the beginning of the greater solution.
Men play a big role in making the changes we all need. However, because they don’t think their involvement in this “menstruation business” is important, they won’t advocate for it. Getting men involved in this conversation can push the necessary legislation forward to ensure that all women have access to feminine hygiene products.
Moreover, the governments’ job is to represent everyone, but they don’t always do that. It’s important that women everywhere have their voices heard. Even though it may seem like women a small fish in a big pond, schools of fish take up more space and create a bigger impact. Basically, if everyone works together the change sought after can happen.
Angela Constance, the equalities secretary for Scotland, believes that they can be a leader in solving “period poverty” if they’re willing to do the work. Based on the changes they’re making, they are willing to do the work. But, whether the rest of world is, is still unknown.
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