Tampon Tax and the monetary value of a woman’s period

By Martina Cavallaro

In the last few months, Tampon Tax has been at the center of many discussions. Last October, Japan raised the consumption tax from 8% to 10%. While daily necessities – such as food and groceries – stay at 8%, other goods which are not essential in the everyday life are subjected to the raise. Among those, we find menstrual products, which are considered the same as alcohol or a dinner at a restaurant once in a while. Are menstrual products as worth as a vice? A woman’s period is treated as a luxury, which deserves to be paid for, rather than a biological condition. Menstrual products are treated as an accessory in a woman’s life, rather than a primary necessity.

Japan is not the only country that has to deal which such inequality. Among European countries, Italy has one of the highest tax percentage on menstrual products (22%, which is the same percentage applied on luxury products), together with Germany, which taxed them at 19%. Last February, the online magazine Neon and the start up Einhorsul presented a petition to the German Parliament demanding for a reduction from the 19% to the 7% and it was signed by 80.000 supporters.

Last November, Italian’s new tax legislation established a reduction of the Tampon Tax from 22% to 5%. This sounds like an achievement. However, the menstrual products contemplated are only the eco-friendly ones – such as menstrual cups and biodegradable tampons. Italian Minister of Economy Roberto Gualtieri welcomed this decision as a “first step towards the attention on every woman’s need” in a tweet.

In the case of Italy’s “reform” on Tampon Tax, a new element pops up. The reduction of Tampon Tax on eco-friendly menstrual products has been presented as an equal and also “green” solution. In reality, it doesn’t change the view of the menstruation as a “luxury”. It gives the menstruation a a new role as one of the causes of pollution, for which women must feel responsible and guilty – and for which they must pay. Of course, it’s good to have an eco-friendly option of a product frequently used by a large part of the population. But the monetary difference on these two types doesn’t change the value that a woman’s menstruation has in the society. Menstruation is still considered a shame for a woman, especially when it’s related to environmentalism.

The fight against Tampon Tax is a fight against gender discrimination and inequalities in our societies. Every woman in every country needs to buy sanitary napkins every month for a week. Keeping a tax on tampons high is the manifestation of a society that is still struggling in considering women as equal as men. It means that such societies are still taking advantage of a woman’s condition.

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