Period poverty is a term that refers to the lack of accessibility to menstrual products. The “luxury tax” collected on menstrual products is a major contributor to period poverty and a barrier to reproductive health for the millions of women living in poverty. Period poverty is leaving its impact on girls and women, all over the globe. It is majorly affecting their health, education, and among a few areas, even their safety. When women lack accessibility or cannot afford menstrual products, this can result in them using makeshift pads made out of socks, tissue paper and other discarded products. ‘Pink Tax’ is a label to represent the unofficial additional levy imposed on products designed for females, even though the equivalent men’s products are very similar in ingredients.
Disparity in the cost of feminine products
There are roughly 3.8 billion women worldwide, and approximately 2 billion of them are menstruating. Women have their periods for an average of 2,535 days per year, or nearly seven years, as per UNICEF’s report. Period supplies may end up costing thousands of dollars as a result. The fact that women already have a higher probability of living in poverty than men, despite making up more than half of the population in the United States, only serves to exacerbate the issue. One estimate projected that by 2027, the global market for feminine hygiene products would reach $51 billion. These differences can quickly add up over the course of a year, especially for people who buy toiletries on a monthly or weekly basis.
25 million women in the United States are living in poverty, and food stamps do not cover period products. Period poverty, or a lack of access to menstrual products and education, affects one in ten college students in the United States, according to a published study. Additionally, these women are more likely than their peers to report being depressed. The New York Department of Consumer Affairs conducted a study in 2015 that compared nearly 800 retail items from over 90 brands, including deodorants and children’s toys, specifically in search of potential gendered pricing.
According to the findings of the study, the “women’s” version of any given product costs an average of 7% more than similar products for men. Only five of the 35 tested product categories did not charge more for the women’s version. One in ten girls in the UK between the ages of 14 and 21 have been unable to afford menstrual products, and 49% have missed an entire school day because of their period, according to research. A parenting website based in the UK, found that 97% of parents want to end the Pink Tax, either through a voluntary code of conduct or by making it illegal. It turns out that women spend more on each of these items, with a whopping 34 percent Pink Tax added to the cost of ladies’ face cream representing the largest markup.
What is being done so far?
Period poverty, or a lack of access to sanitary products, education on menstrual hygiene, toilets, or waste management, is a serious problem in both developed and developing nations. People miss school and work because they can’t afford menstrual products, making them more vulnerable financially and in terms of safety. Over the past ten years, there has been a rise in public awareness of the need to eliminate gender-based pricing and taxation. For the 800 million people worldwide who are on their periods at any given time, having access to good menstrual health is now recognized as a fundamental human right. Period poverty is specifically addressed by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, which “provide a blueprint for progress across all areas of life.”
Twelve states do not levy taxes on feminine hygiene products at the moment. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and New Hampshire are the five states without a sales tax, and seven states specifically exclude feminine hygiene products. Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania are all of these states. Because they are considered medical products, feminine hygiene products are exempt in states like Massachusetts and Maryland. Although many states in the United States still levy sales taxes on menstrual products by failing to include them in product categories that are frequently tax-exempt, such as medical and health supplies, California made headlines a few years ago when it followed in the footsteps of several states that had already eliminated their tampon taxes.
What needs to be done further?
The problem is getting worse faster in both the public and private sectors. At charities, “End Period Poverty” awareness campaigns are gaining traction. By working to change tax and fiscal policy so that they no longer exacerbate period poverty, we can contribute to the field of tax policy. The UK government has pledged to make free menstrual products available to secondary school students. To ensure that primary schools receive free menstrual products and to promote reusable menstrual products while teaching about puberty and menstruation, additional advocacy is required.
Promoting sustainable menstrual products
Social media has made it possible for an increasing number of girls and women to learn about the advantages of reusable options. Individuals, nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations can now work together to combat period poverty through the use of social media. Girls’ and women’s questions have been answered and taboos are being broken on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Girls and women alike now feel confident enough to try reusable items like period pants.
Distributing free hygiene products among underprivileged communities
In Bangladesh’s rural areas, menstrual hygiene practices are in poor condition. Sanitary napkins are still rarely used, despite the significance of menstrual hygiene for women and girls in their adolescence. Also, during their periods, women and girls who use alternatives like cotton, tissue paper, and clothes that haven’t been washed run the risk of getting a urinary tract infection, going into septic shock, and not dying at all. The Period Poverty by ZamZam Foundation began providing free menstrual pads and other hygiene items in 2021. to eradicate period poverty in the lives of at least 300 disadvantaged women.
Women and schoolgirls in Kustia, Mymensingh, and Rajbari are currently served by the Period Poverty project for a healthy and safe period. Women and schoolgirls also receive monthly counseling on menstrual issues as part of this procedure. Several schoolgirls and women found work as a result of this program, easing their financial burden. Please make a donation at poverty.org to support this worthy cause.
What are we doing to address the cause?
In countries like Bangladesh and Africa, it can be hard for schoolgirls to get toilets and clean water. According to ZamZam, one in ten girls will miss school during their periods. The ZamZam Foundation collaborates with local communities to improve amenities like showers and toilets. The ZamZam Foundation has put in a lot of effort to make sure that they provide girls with information about menstrual products and teach them about periods and sex so that they can go to school and learn the skills they need to get a job, get out of poverty, and take control of their own lives.
By restricting access to menstrual products, the menstrual product tax exacerbates period poverty and negatively impacts women’s quality of life. Taking into account the financial, social, and political repercussions of this tax, our research calls for its elimination. While working on exempting the additional tax on the products, we cannot forget to constantly participate in causes that raise awareness around the core issue.