‘Nothing is certain except death and taxes’. These famous words, attributed to Benjamin Franklin can do with one addition, menstruation. 50% of the world’s population menstruates, and that same 50% needs unfettered, easy and affordable access to period products like sanitary pads, tampons, period panties and menstrual cups. That, in the simplest of terms, is menstrual equity. Providing every woman the safe, hygienic and easily affordable sanitary protection she needs. This small step is a giant leap on the road to a truly equitable society.
The idea that these necessities are subjected to a hefty sales tax in numerous places across the world, or otherwise are prohibitively expensive, making it hard for women from a lower income bracket to regularly access these products. Women in impoverished societies are often forced to use unsanitary products such as waste paper, cloth rags, even leaves and ash in place of more hygienic period products simply because they cannot afford them. Girls in some areas routinely miss up to 7 days of school each month during their period.
Earlier this year, India announced that it would abolish the 12% tax on sanitary pads, a step also taken by Canada and several states in the US. Current legislation under review in several countries address the idea of providing sanitary products to women in jails and shelters as well as to girls in schools. There are lots of petitions that people can sign, pledging their support to create menstrual equity. Every signature puts a tiny bit more pressure on the powers that be to abolish the dreaded ‘tampon tax’ and makes big difference.
Prince William and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex also shed light on the problem of period poverty when they asked guests at their wedding to donate to an organization that provides affordable sanitary pads to women living in Mumbai’s slums.
The bottom line is, menstruation, like death and taxes are a certainty for all women, and period products are a necessity, not a luxury. It is essential that women all around the world do not have to choose between feeding themselves or their family and having access to hygienic period products. When there is no tax on Viagra, why should there be a tax on tampons?