Why should I be taxed for my monthly period?

By Aayushi Khillan
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A woman’s uterus should not have to pay the price for doing its job, says Aayushi Khillan

I am angry.

I am angry that we have to stand here today, still fighting for our basic rights.

I am angry that each month, 12 million Australian women must suffer: not the suffering of their period, but the suffering of blatant discrimination.

I am angry that somehow something that we were biologically designed to do, has become another excuse for abuse.

“Buying a tampon leaves me with nothing.”

These are the seven words that shattered my heart completely. The words of Hannah, a homeless woman I met at a Sacred Hearts Mission drive. As I sat down to have a conversation with her, she told me about her daily struggles living on the streets as a woman. And how each month when her period comes, she struggles to make enough money to buy a packet of tampons? Every single month, she is placed in a crisis situation, choosing between buying a pad or having dinner. The thought makes me numb to my core. How can women be treated like this? It makes no sense. We have our priorities all wrong if we allow this kind of thing to continue to happen.

No, sanitary items should not be free, but women like Hannah—unemployed or struggling to survive—shouldn’t feel targeted just because they have a uterus. We can save each woman an estimate of $1,000 during their lifetime without taxing sanitary items. One thousand dollars can truly change their lives.

We all know what GST is. A 10 per cent Goods and Services Tax that we pay for any domestically consumed item. But for obvious reasons, there is an exemption for health products that are deemed as necessities such as sunscreen, nicotine patches, condoms, lubricants and even Viagra. Funnily enough though, you know what is missing from this list?

Tampons and pads—female essentials.

For almost two decades, we Australian women have had to pay a 10 per cent GST on our period. Of course, back in 1999, when the GST legislation was drafted by male public servants reporting to a male-dominated cabinet, in an overwhelmingly male parliament, what more could we have expected? Women were still targeted by repulsive double standards and female rights were only beginning to be publicly acknowledged.

And yet here we are 20 years on. While things may have changed, it is clearly not enough when we are still being taxed for our biology. Let’s be blunt. A tax on sanitary pads and tampons is a tax on women, a tax on our bodies, a tax on our existence. It makes a sickening mockery of our gender, shackling us to a life of a commodity. How will there ever true equality when one gender is still treated less valuable than another? How will there ever be equality if we still refuse to acknowledge the reproductive health and hygiene of 12 million Australians? We need to take this first step before we can even dream of solving the gender pay gap or female abuse. We need to stop being treated as less important than a bottle of sunscreen. We need to be given our equality. Our uterus should not be taxed for doing their job.

Okay so, let’s think about this from an economic perspective. Of course the rationale behind most taxes is that it generates revenue for the government, money that comes back to us in the form of major health programs and social security. This has often been used as a defense for the tampon tax. We’ve all heard it—“The tax contributes $30 million a year to our government. It is too much for us to lose. So we can’t abolish it.”

Not only is this ridiculously flawed argument, but it has truly no statistical backing. The $30 million that is stolen from our pockets is a paltry 0.05 per cent of the total $62 billion GST revenue the federal government receives. Seriously. I mean seriously!

The federal government could easily makeup the lost money by applying the tax to some forms of alternative therapy including herbalism and aromatherapy. It’s so hypocritical that they exempt unproven natural therapies over something, something that is a biological necessity. I am tired of these excuses.

It’s time the government either puts up or shuts up for good.

And there always people who say that we can afford a ten percent tax, so why don’t we just pay it. But they fail to take into account all the many women from disadvantaged backgrounds who struggle to buy simple necessities for themselves and their families. In particular, the homeless.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found on a census night in 2016, almost 50,000 Australian women were homeless. Due to gender-based financial inequality or the need to leave the workforce for care, women have become increasingly more likely to fall below the poverty line than men. But this argument isn’t simply about numbers; it’s about real people’s lives.

Our society is gripped by a sense of injustice.

Injustice that comes from being told that patience is the key to equality when they just keep changing the damn lock.

Injustice that is being made to feel less of a human, like a quota, every single month just because we are women!

So ladies, it’s about time to stand up to this relentless abuse. No longer should we be encumbered by our gender.

Whether it’s about equality, economics or considering the disadvantage some women face, one thing rings clear: the tax must be axed.

Today, we will ensure that happens.

Today we will fight for our rights

Today is the day we put a stop to this bloody mess. Period.


The author is a year 12 student from Mac Roberts Girls School, Melbourne

 

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