Support the removal of GST on feminine sanitary products

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Since 2000, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Australia has labelled feminine sanitary products as luxury goods, rendering them to 10 % taxation. This tax determines that in her lifetime, a woman will spend over $5000 on feminine sanitary products while the government earns approximately $115 million from this tax.

In 2015 the previous Australian Treasurer, Hon. Joe Hockey was questioned by University of Sydney student Subeta Vimalarajah who was attempting to remove the GST on feminine sanitary products. Ms. Vimalarajah asked Hon. Joe Hockey if he believed GST should be removed on feminine sanitary products, Hon. Joe Hockey provided a response of “Yes, the answer's yes”. However, no changes have occurred since.

Again in 2015, the Green Party attempted to provide a solution to remove the GST on sanitary products by attempting to pass an amendment that included sanitary items on the exempted GST list. However, this amendment was not passed by parliament due to disagreements between the States on the removal of the tax. In its current form, this legislation puts Australia behind other countries, including Canada, Scotland, France and parts of the US, regarding women's access to sanitary products as GST on feminine sanitary products has been removed in these countries. The government’s current stance is that all states must be in agreement in order to remove the tax.

The tax on sanitary products impacts every female in Australia, but particularly impacts homeless women, women and girls in rural communities, and low socio-economic areas. There are 46,000 homeless women in Australia who cannot afford sanitary items, therefore impacting their ability to maintain proper hygiene practice during their menstrual cycle each month.

Health Implications

The psychosocial well-being of these women and girls is impacted, increasing stress, fear, embarrassment, and feelings of social exclusion if unable to access feminine sanitary products. 

Women's general health is impacted when unable to access sanitary products as there is increased risk for urinary or reproductive tract infections. Additionally, if infections persist, a woman's reproductive health can be impacted. If using feminine sanitary products inappropriately, women and girls are at increased risk of contracting Toxic Shock Syndrome, which can result in hospitalisation if severe. 

The negative effects caused by lack of access to feminine sanitary products leaves women and girls unable to engage in their meaningful activities including attending school or work, and social activities. In some cases this can become so severe that school age girls drop out of school, or attempt to resolve their barrier to accessing feminine sanitary products by shoplifting. This can result in women and girls obtaining a criminal record, which can severely impact their future employment opportunities. 

Human Rights Infringement 

As Article 25 states: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Women and girls cannot control experiencing a menstrual cycle each month, as it is a natural bodily function. Lack of access to sanitary products infringes on the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of herself, including medical care.

We have sent letters of concern to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and all 8 State and Territory Premiers and urge them to take immediate action on this Human Rights infringement. 

Please join us in supporting the removal of the GST on feminine hygiene products to improve women and girl's access to proper hygiene practice around Australia by signing and sharing this petition!

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