International Women’s Day, which takes place this year on 8 March, is a global day of celebrating the social, political, and economic achievements of women. Women play a crucial role in the global economy, with control of 85 per cent of consumer spending worldwide.
However, women are still at a disadvantage in 2022 when it comes to their purchasing power. The disadvantage: gender-based pricing discrimination on personal care products.
The “tampon tax” refers to a regular sales tax that’s applied to an item in a category known as “non-luxury necessities.” These non-luxury necessities include tampons, pads, panty liners, menstrual cups.
For those uninitiated in American tax codes, sales taxes differ from state to state, ranging anywhere from four per cent to seven per cent. The movement to eliminate the tampon tax seeks to treat these products like groceries and medical supplies.
There are at least 20 states throughout the country that have introduced measures to eliminate the tampon tax, but 30 states still charge a sales tax on feminine products. In February 2022, Michigan became the latest state to pass a bill that exempt menstrual products from a six per cent sales tax.
In 2020, California repealed its sales tax on menstrual products until January 2022. While there is no permanent law in effect, Governor Gavin Newsom signed The Menstrual Equity for All Act in October 2021, which required California public schools and universities to provide free menstrual products in restrooms by the start of the new school year.
New York State and Connecticut eliminated the tampon tax in 2016, Florida in 2017, and Nevada in 2018. Other states such as Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon do not tax menstrual products because goods in these states are not charged an additional sales tax.
Gender-based price discrimination goes far beyond feminine hygiene products. When it comes to personal care products, there’s rarely a difference between those advertised toward men and those intended for women, except for the commonly used pink packaging, known as the “pink tax”.
The “pink tax” refers to the increased price women pay for specific products, like razors, tooth brushes, shaving cream or body wash. In fact, women pay an average of seven per cent more for similar goods and services than men do, according to a 2015 study, despite a 2021 study finding US women made $0.82 for every $1 men made.
The pandemic has exacerbated the effects of period poverty in America. Since March 2020, non-profit organisation I Support The Girls has reported a 35 per cent increase in requests for products. The additional cost burden of menstrual products disproportionality affects women from low-income communities as well. A 2019 survey found that nearly two-thirds of women in the US could not afford menstrual hygiene products, and benefits like food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program don’t cover their costs either.
More and more countries are finding solutions to combat period poverty. In January 2021, Britain became the latest country to eliminate the sales tax on women’s sanitary products, joining the ranks of Australia, Canada and India.
On International Women’s Day, ending the sales tax on menstrual products is just one step toward eliminating the tampon tax - and period poverty - in the United States.
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