Beyond the Tampon Tax: Understanding Menstruation as a Political Issue

April 2, 2024

Throughout their lives, individuals who menstruate will experience an average of 2,535 days of menstruation, which equates to almost seven years of ensuring they have access to sanitary products, devising makeshift solutions in their absence, and navigating the associated pain and discomfort. At any given time, 800 million people globally are menstruating, many of whom face significant barriers to accessing menstrual products. 

For instance, in the United States alone, one in five teenagers struggles to afford these necessary items, and one in four has been forced to miss educational opportunities due to lack of access. This issue, known as period poverty, highlights the critical intersection of menstruation, socio-economic status, and the broader implications for human rights and dignity.

Menstruation is an inevitable aspect of life for half of the world's population, necessitating the purchase of sanitary products such as tampons and pads. Despite their essential nature, many jurisdictions categorize these products as "luxury" items, subjecting them to additional sales taxes. This classification not only adds financial burdens—estimated to total between $100 and $250 in taxes over a lifetime according to The Huffington Post—but also reflects a profound misunderstanding and devaluation of menstrual health. These added costs disproportionately impact individuals who are low-income, incarcerated, or experiencing homelessness, exacerbating issues of health, hygiene, and personal dignity.

The predominance of non-menstruating individuals among legislative bodies contributes to the perpetuation of policies that fail to recognize the essential nature of menstrual products. However, recent years have seen a burgeoning movement aimed at eliminating discriminatory taxes and advocating for menstrual equity as a fundamental human right.

Taking action against period poverty and advocating for the removal of the tampon tax are vital steps toward addressing this inequality. Individuals can engage in a variety of ways, including:

  • Investigating whether the state imposes a tampon tax and advocating for its removal.
  • If you live in the US, supporting initiatives like to champion the elimination of the tampon tax.
  • Contributing to non-profit organizations, such as #HappyPeriod and PERIOD, which work towards menstrual equity and combat period poverty.
  • Participating in or initiating local projects aimed at addressing menstrual inequity.
  • Donating new and unused menstrual products to organizations supporting those who are homeless or survivors of domestic violence.
  • Engaging in conversations about menstruation to dismantle the stigma surrounding this natural bodily function.

Understanding menstruation as a political issue underscores the necessity of inclusive policy-making that respects and upholds the dignity and rights of all individuals. By recognizing access to menstrual products as a human right rather than a luxury, society can move towards greater equity and justice for menstruators worldwide.

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