By MELISSA WELLHAM
I, Melissa Wellham, am paying a tax on my body. And so are you, and you, and you and you.
In fact, almost all ovulating women are paying a tax on their bodies.
If you are female, you are probably paying a tax by the very virtue of being female – a tax that the menfolk in Australia don’t have to pay at all. Because, in case you didn’t already know, the 10 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) applies to women’s sanitary products. The reasoning behind this is that they are seen as ‘luxuries’.
Yep. Sanitary products – pads, tampons, and moon cups or similar – are a luxury. Like new shoes. Like holidays to the Bahamas. Like paying for the latest episode of Game of Thrones instead of downloading it illegally (kidding!).
Uhuh. Whenever I have cramps and my skin looks like sh*t and I am being mean to everyone around me and all I want to do is eat five blocks of that salt-imbued dark chocolate; that is the epitome of luxury. And having to carry pads about with me? That’s ABSOLUTE heaven.
If it doesn’t make you annoyed that you have to pay 10 per cent extra on an item that you probably resent buying anyway, then maybe this will…
Condoms are GST exempt. Yes, you read that right.
Condoms are GST exempt. But pads and tampons are not.
The list of GST-exempt items includes condoms, lubricant, and nicotine patches.
Now, I’m not saying that these items should have a GST attached to them – I think everyone benefits from being able to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STIs during sex… so why is it (as one awesome Mamamia reader asked us recently) that we women pay a tax on our bodies but men can fuck for free?
There is a reason items such as condoms, folate supplements, incontinence pads and sunscreen are exempt from GST – because they are deemed to prevent illness.
But although sanitary products may not be prevent illnesses, let’s not kid ourselves that they are not completely necessary. What are women supposed to do, when we have our periods? Use old newspaper? Head to a business meeting without, and bleed all over the place? Go about our daily lives, leaving blood in our wake – on public transport, at the cinemas, on the street?
I don’t think that women should be ashamed of periods. I don’t think that they should be classed as an ‘illness’, and that’s why they should be GST-free. But I do think there needs to be an acknowledgment that sanitary products are an absolute necessity.
Back in 2000, the then Prime Minister John Howard told the 7.30 Report:
I mean, of course if you look at tampons in isolation — just as you look at something else in isolation — you can mount an argument to take the tax off it.
I could mount an argument to take the tax off children’s clothes.
I could mount an argument to take the tax off old people’s clothes, I could mount an argument for a whole lot of things.
But we’ve had that argument and if you start doing that, you will have no GST in the end, and the whole system will begin to unravel.
Except buying sanitary products isn’t just like buying a new jumper, or pair of jeans. You have to buy them every month. They are hygiene items, and this is a health issue.
In 2009 the debate as to whether sanitary products should be GST-exempt was reignited when Coles announced that they were cutting the price of sanitary products by 10% to offset the GST – and it’s been kicking since.
Despite the fact that the Labor government opposed the tax on sanitary items back in 2000, the current Labor government has done nothing to rectify the tax. It’s worth mentioning that according to some reports, the Government makes approximately $25 million per year from the GST on female hygiene products.
The law isn’t likely to change if there is a change of government this year, either. The man who signed the GST-free Supply (Health Goods) Determination back in 2004 was the then Minister for Health and Ageing, now Leader of the Opposition – Tony Abbott.
A woman named Sophie Liley started a petition on Change.org a while back called ‘Axe the Tampon Tax’ – which she was promoting with the hashtag #BloodyOutrage.
As Liley writes on the petition:
It’s a bloody outrage. Putting a tax on products women need as a direct consequence of their biology is fundamentally sexist.
It’s a stain on our national image. Half the population of Australia — approximately 10 million women — will pay tax on these products for the greater part of their lifetime. Costing us about $1000 for buying an essential health product.
Sanitary products are not a luxury. They are not something that women want. They are something that women need.
And until the government – or whichever government finds itself in power in the coming months – realises this, it is tantamount to sexism. 52% of the population should not have to pay more for the inconvenience of bleeding monthly.
Heck, I actually think women should be given government-subsidised chocolate during that time of the month. I’ll take dark chocolate, thanks.
Do you think sanitary products should be exempt from GST?