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By | February 23, 2021

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In England, one in ten women between 14 and 21 cannot afford menstrual management products. In 2004, Kenya was the first country to abolish sales tax for menstrual products.

Following the end of the transition period for Britain leaving the EU the tampon tax was abolished in Britain, meaning there is now a zero rate of VAT applying to women’s sanitary products. The UK Independence Party raised the issue in the 2015 general election with promises to withdraw from the European Union and allow the zero rate.

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Superstar Akshay Kumar featured as the lead male actor in Pad Man and raised awareness about the Niine Movement to fight the taboo on menstruation. The tampon tax was abolished in Britain on 1 January 2021, meaning there is now a zero rate of VAT applying to women’s sanitary products. Proponents argue that feminine hygiene products serving the basic menstrual cycle should be classified alongside other unavoidable, tax exempt necessities, such as groceries and personal medical items. Although others argue that other basic necessities such as toilet paper are still taxed in many countries, for example in the UK at 20%. As the vast majority of consumers of feminine hygiene products are women, the increased cost has been criticized as being discriminatory against women. The tampon tax is not a special tax levied directly on feminine hygiene products.

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Garcia and Ling Ling Chang proposed a bill to remove the tampon tax in early 2016. At this time, only a handful of the country’s states exempted tampons, and several others had no state sales tax.

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Garcia held that women were taxed “for being women” and bore an economic burden for having no other choice but to buy these products. Laura Coryton led a “Stop taxing periods, period” campaign with an online petition to have the European Union remove the value-added tax for sanitary products. The petition platform’s CEO cited the campaign as an example of successful clicktivism, with over 320,000 signatures.

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Many states that have tampon taxes have tried to repeal or eliminate the tax via legislation and have been denied. On July 1st, 2020, Washington became the 20th state to remove tax from menstrual products. In the court case of the “Tampon Tax”, attorney Zoe Salzman defended the movement of repealing the taxes on feminine menstrual products. Part of the case was also a plea for refunding the women for all of the taxes that they had to pay on feminine menstrual products in the past.

Connecticut and Illinois also removed their tax in 2016, with Florida following suit in 2017. In June 2019, menstrual products were exempted from the sales tax in the state budget, but only for the two-year duration of the budget.

Both Representatives Greta Johnson and Brigid Kelly introduced the bills for years and finally became law in November 2019 – that would exempt feminine menstrual products from the state’s sales tax. Legal scholars note that Ohio women still have to pay around four million dollars each year due to taxes on these items as they are not exempt from local taxes.

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In March 2016, Parliament created legislation to eliminate the tampon VAT, following a budget amendment by Labour MP Paula Sherriff. It was expected to go into effect by April 2018 but did not do so; several British women protested for it publicly while displaying blood stains from their periods. On 3 October 2018, new EU VAT rules that would allow the UK to stop taxing sanitary products were proposed by the European Parliament. However they would not go into effect until January 2022 at the earliest, and no timeline for implementation has been tabled.