We live in a world where a majority of countries treat menstruation as a choice and menstrual products as a luxury. As such, I decided to analyze the taxation of menstrual hygiene products through a global lens by focusing on four different countries: Ghana, Canada, Nepal and Scotland.
Located in the subregion of West Africa, Ghana is home to a population of 29.77 million. According to a survey published by Hindawi, nearly 90% of rural girls said that, as a result of their menstrual cycle, they dropped out of school for at least a week every month—only amplifying the effects of an already low literacy rate. According to the Ghana Revenue Authority’s tariff schedules for 2012, a 20% import charge and 12.5% value added tax are still applied on every sanitary pad which renders these products beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.
In Canada, the tampon tax was only abolished as recently as 2015. The move was initially spearheaded by MP Judy Wasylislicia- Leis who introduced a Bill to add menstrual products to a list of zero-rated products in 2004. Leis’ attempt failed to make it into law but a petition led by Jill Piebiak in 2015 led to the abolishment of the tampon tax by a unanimous vote of 258-0.
In Nepal, women of a lower socio economics status have minimal access to menstrual products due to the high price associated with these items. Around 160 million pieces of sanitary pads are used in Nepal on a yearly basis. Out of the total, 130 million pieces are imported and the remaining are made domestically. As a result, a tax of 15-30% levied on the raw materials contributes to its hefty price tag.
Scotland is poised to become the first country in the world to make sanitary pads and tampons free to anyone who needs them. It passed the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill in February 2020 which demanded the free supply of menstrual hygiene products. Scottish Parliament Member Monica Lennon began this campaign in 2017
The above countries are a micro sample of how menstruation is perceived in various parts of the world. There are countries who believe that menstruation is an indispensable part of a person’s life and therefore, a person must be provided all the necessary care, products, etc that the government can provide; whereas there are many countries which treat period products as a luxury and charge a tax as high as 30% on them.
The concern is not just about the pecuniary burden. It goes beyond that and shines light on a country's true outlook concerning women’s health.