The Australian government appeared to bow to pressure from activists Tuesday by taking the first steps to remove a 10 percent tax on feminine hygiene products — a goods and services tax that opponents say penalizes women for getting their periods.
The development came a day Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey was pressed on the issue by student activists brandishing a gigantic tampon emblazoned with the words “Stop taxing my period!”
“Mr. Hockey, do you think that tampons are an essential health good for half the population?” asked Sydney University student Subeta Vimalarajah during a televised Q&A with the politician. The students are behind an online petition calling for the government to drop the tax.
As of Tuesday, that petition had generated more than 95,000 signatures.
In response to Vimalarajah’s question, Hockey offered an embarrassed laugh and agreed that the tax “probably should” be eliminated. He told her that he would bring up the issue at his next meeting with Australian state treasurers in July.
In a brief statement on Tuesday, Hockey said he would calculate the cost of cutting the tax on feminine hygiene products and “will write to the states for them to consider ahead of our next meeting,” according to Reuters.
Australia’s goods and services tax, or GST, levies a 10 percent tax on most items sold in the country, according to the government’s website. But as Vimalarajah's petition points out, certain medical and health-related products are exempt from the tax, including condoms, sunscreen and nicotine patches.
“People who get periods don’t buy pads and tampons for pleasure, so why are we forced to fork out an extra 10 percent every two, three, four weeks? Taxing Australians for getting their period isn’t just sexist, it’s fundamentally unfair!” the petition reads.
“Half the population menstruates, and they shouldn't be financially penalized for it,” it adds.
But Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday that making tampons and pads GST-free was up to the states and territories, not the central government, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“It’s certainly not something that this government has a plan to do,” he said.