In June this year, the Senate yet again voted to keep the GST on Tampons and Sanitary Pads. Greens senator Larissa Waters had proposed to remove the luxury tax Australian Goods and Services Tax (GST) from women’s menstrual products such as tampons and sanitary pads but the proposal saw a major defeat with just 15 votes to 33 votes.
Ms Waters then took to twitter to show her anger calling the decision a ‘bloody disgrace’.
“Labor and the Coalition voted today to keep taxing women’s biology. Periods are not a luxury, and sanitary items are not luxury items — they are necessities,” Ms Waters said after the vote.
Subeta Vimalrajah, a University of Sydney student started a petition on communityrun.org called ‘Stop taxing my period’ back in 2015. It was her attempt to get the voices of women in Australia heard and put an end to the tax on sanitary products. Through the campaign, there were events conducted in Sydney, Perth, Hobart and Canberra. These events had period-themed flash mobs, human-sized tampons, and some great informative speeches.
Though she managed to get over 90,000 signatures before the senate meeting that year, it proved futile. The government didn’t budge. The GST stayed and two years later things are no different.
This fight has been going on for over 17 years now, women demanding their right to have lower prices on items that are a necessity and the government refusing to understand. This isn’t just downright pathetic but also insulting to every woman in Australia.
Basic sanitary products are unaffordable, unavailable or too shameful to be bought for some women and girls of the the poorest indigenous communities in Australia. According to a report conducted by the University of Queensland in partnership with WaterAid, the women said they used toilet paper, socks and rags in place of pads and tampons which can prove to be very expensive ($10 a packet). The girls of the indigenous community are missing school because of their period because of a lack of proper facilities like separate toilets, doors that lock or even something as simple as rubbish bins.
To think that a group of male politicians have the right to pass judgements over issues that women face, to decide what is a necessity and what is a luxury baffles my mind. How can a man ever understand something he hasn’t experienced?
The problem is even worse for women who are homeless. How in the world do these privileged men expect women without a roof over their head and no money to buy food to be able to afford pads and tampons to fulfil their menstrual needs. Periods are a very natural phenomenon in a woman’s life, that needs proper care and attention, a complication in the menstrual cycle could lead to terrible consequences for any woman. If homelessness is an issue for the country, helping homeless women with their cycle should be an issue too.
Just like food, clean water, a fresh pair of clothes, sanitary items are also an essential item for every woman. Most homeless women cannot afford sanitary pads or tampons and so make do with old socks or toilet paper from public washrooms. According to the 2011 consensus, the total number of homeless Australians was 105,237 and of these 45,813 were women. Since then the numbers have only increased. 45000+ women living without the means to manage their periods, all because the men sitting in the Senate assume they know best, and so have declared tampons and pads a luxury item for almost two decades now.
In June this year Australian presenter Carrie Bickmore gave politicians a good telling-off for not scrapping off the tampon tax. She rapped about how its ridiculous that tampons and sanitary pads are still taxed during her show.
“Every month, Aussie women get their cramp on,” she sang. “Every month, Aussie women need a tampon. The tax man has got his hand out, 10 per cent GST get the f… out.”
“Get it done,” Bickmore said bluntly. “It’s 2017, it seems absolutely ridiculous that we’re having this conversation. I mean, today I was reading that incontinence pads are GST-free, but sanitary pads aren’t.”
Thankfully we have organisations like Share the Dignity that are helping these women on the streets, get access to the basic necessity that pads and tampons are. Inspired by a Mamamia article by Mia Freedman, Rochelle Courtenay started the campaign called #dignitydrive. The campaign that is conducted in April and August creates collection points all across Australia to collect sanitary items to be donated to homeless women to help with their periods. You can find your nearest collection point by going on the following link.
The company is currently organising a raffle draw with a chance to win a BMW, to collect money to buy pads and tampons for women in need. It is a draw open till the 13th of October 2017, and the winners would be announced on the same day. To participate and buy you could go on this link.
Another campaign started by Donna Stolzenberg the founder and director of Melbourne Homeless Collective (MHC) called the Melbourne Period Project which operates in a way which is very similar to the way Share the Dignity does by collecting sanitary items and donating them to women in need.
With campaigns and organisations like these there seems to be a glimmer of hope for the thousands of Australian women who cannot afford to buy sanitary products but even then, the question remains, how long will the men in the Senate get away with earning through taxing women’s periods?
As such one cannot help but find the GST in Australia to have been applied very illogically. With things like Condoms and lubes untaxed and basic necessities like toilet paper and tampons taxed, one really cannot help but question how it is for the betterment of the people, or is it?