4 Years Since The Tampon Tax Was Lifted In Canada

Image: Change.org

Image: Change.org

When you hear the words “luxury goods”, what do you picture? Fancy cars? Private jets? Designer bags? Tampons?

It sounds inconceivable to even categorize feminine hygiene products as luxurious in any sense. And yet, from 1991 to July 1, 2015 (exactly four years ago today), the Canadian government taxed all menstrual hygiene products as “non-essential” or “luxury” purchases. Meanwhile, cocktail cherries, human sperm, and wedding cakes were not subjected to luxury taxes, according to Canadian Menstruators

Canadian Menstruators, an organization created to serve all menstruating individuals, revealed a truth that astounded me. They found that in 2014 alone, 17,876,392 Canadian women spent around $519,976,963 on menstrual hygiene products. “That means the government collected approximately $36,398,387 in government sales taxes because our uteruses did what they do naturally. Our government made money off our bodies.” - Canadian Menstruators

Menstrual hygiene products are not only “non-luxury” products, but they are inexplicably essential to all menstruating people - be it women, trangender Canadians, or non-binary individuals. In 2004, MP Judy Wasylicia introduced a bill to end GST on period products, saying “The GST on tampons and sanitary napkins amounts to gender-based taxation. The taxing of essential and necessary products used exclusively by women is unfair and discriminatory. It unfairly disadvantages women financially, solely because of our reproductive role. The bill would benefit all Canadian women at some point in their lives and would be of particular value to lower income women.” However, the bill failed to be approved by the Parliament, perhaps due to the visibly disproportionate and lack of female representation in elected positions. 

Following that failed bill, MP Irene Mathyssen introduced a bill that called on the Parliament to amend the Excise Tax Act in 2013. The proposed bill went largely ignored, until a group of Canadian activists created a petition encouraging Canadians to support it. As a matter of fact, the #NoTaxOnTampons bill collected a total of over 85,000 signatures; while many Canadian women wrote to their MPs, demanding just taxation on menstrual products. Because of their action, the NDP opposition introduced a motion to end tax on period products. Three days later, the motion was passed 258 - 0.

On July 1, 2015, the Harper government announced that all taxes on menstrual hygiene products would be lifted. On Canada Day, a nation that for decades ignored the significance of recognizing feminine hygiene products a necessity, made history by being one of the first countries in the world to lift taxes on essential period products.

Although we created a much needed change, globally there is much more that needs to be done. Currently, 35 U.S. states still implement the “tampon tax”, and nations across the world do the same. In order to learn more about the tampon tax and have your voice heard, visit https://www.taxfreeperiod.com/ and champion period equity!

Maheen IqbalComment