On top of all the physical inconveniences of having a period, there also is a financial toll. The cost for tampons and pads, which arguably can be categorized as necessities, amounts to a regressive tax on women around the world.
The issue has been gaining awareness, prompting—and prompted by—international movements to scrap the so-called ”tampon tax,” or VAT added to sanitary products. Tax officials in the UK and Australia, among other places, have voted to get rid of the VAT on these items, while in the US only a handful of states have done so.
One of them is New York state, which scrapped the VAT on feminine hygiene products a few weeks ago. Now, New York City is taking “menstrual equity” another step forward. On June 21, the city council voted unanimously to distribute free tampons and sanitary pads in the city’s schools, shelters, and jails.
The bill was sponsored by city council member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. Tampons, she said, “are as necessary as toilet paper, and no one is freaking out about toilet paper.” New York City mayor Bill de Blasio agrees, and pledged to swiftly put the bill into action.
While in many schools, girls already can get free sanitary products from the nurse’s office, the process isn’t always a smooth one. Ferreras-Copeland said that “a young girl should not have to tell her teacher, to then tell her counselor, to then be sent to the nurse’s office, to then be given a pad.”
With the new provision, dispensers of pads and tampons will be installed in 800 schools, reaching an estimated 300,000 girls and women. Another 23,000 women will be given supplies in shelters. For women living in prisons, where menstrual hygiene products are in scarce supply, the impact of the bill may be even more essential.
Initial estimates say that the effort will cost $4.2 million for the first year, including installation of dispensers, and $2.4 million in subsequent years.