I recently saw a post on social media that showed a German company protesting a “luxury” 19% tax on female hygiene products by masquerading tampons as a book, which only has a tax rate of 7%. The story is from June 2019 but started to make its rounds again.
As an advocate and business person, I love to see such inventive and on-brand campaigns that look at a problem and provide a solution and insight into why the issue at hand is absurd. The campaign also had some effect. In November of 2019, tampons were reduced to a 7% tax rate and no longer considered luxury goods in Germany. The company that came up with the idea sells organic sanitary products. Using their experience in the industry, they were able to start a conversation in a very focused and effective way while showing the hypocrisy of the “luxury” tax.
So before we get too comfortable with our “*tsk tsk* Germany,” let’s look at things here in Canada…
Since 2015, Canada no longer has a federal tax on menstrual products. However, before that, we collected roughly $36 million in taxes per year on menstrual products alone. So big picture, that’s quite a lot of money, but does it make a difference when we talk about the product’s affordability; does not charging GST on an item really make it more affordable? No. Removing a “tampon tax” is nothing more than a symbolic change. Look at these stats from 2015:
34% of women and girls in Canada have had to regularly or occasionally sacrifice something else within their budget to afford menstrual products.
63% of women and girls have regularly or occasionally missed an activity because of their period and concerns about not being able to access menstrual hygiene products or proper facilities.
93% of female respondents and 88% of male respondents support or somewhat support having menstrual hygiene products for free in schools.
81% of women and girls and 75% of men and boys support or somewhat support having menstrual hygiene products for free in the workplace.
58% of female respondents said they occasionally or regularly felt the need to lie about being on their period or hide a menstrual product.
41% of female respondents said a male has occasionally or regularly teased them about being on their period, including by friends, colleagues and relatives.
The federal government recently announced a Menstrual Equity Fund which will see $25 million put towards providing products to those in need starting in 2022. That means, in part, creating a fund for non-profits and shelters to make products accessible/free for vulnerable women. They also announced that they will be providing menstrual products in federally regulated workplaces.
These are all somewhat positive policies, but do they actually look to solve the issue and address the realities listed above? No.
Anyone who reads this blog knows I have made it a focus of my business and my identity to fight back against patriarchal paradigms so deeply rooted within our society. You would also know that I have been fighting for industry-led solutions for problems that governments are failing to address, creating unimaginative and regressive policies for, or ignoring altogether.
This is another example of how the government sees a prominent issue, provides a partial solution, and calls the job complete.
It is something we have been facing in our own goal to create affordable housing solutions and second-stage shelter options for women and children fleeing intimate partner violence. I can’t help but wonder what solutions a company that had the vision and insight to expose a tax loophole could do with $25 million to address the issue of period poverty?
Maybe they should ask?