Australia agrees to reconsider 'sexist tampon tax'

Agence France-Presse
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals activist Jen Huls stands dressed as a tampon outside of Columbia University during a protest October 19, 2004 in New York. PETA staged a protest alleging that Columbia researchers are conducting cruel menstrual tests on primates and subjecting them to painful conditions.
Chris Hondros

Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey will reconsider what has been dubbed the "tampon tax" after a campaign by a university student rallied nearly 100,000 supporters in branding the levy sexist.

When Australia introduced a Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2000, health products such as condoms and sunscreen were exempt from the 10 percent charge, along with most foods.

But tampons and other women's hygiene products were not, despite an outcry at the time.

Hockey admitted late Monday that tampons "probably should" be considered essential health products and therefore GST-free, but said any decision would have to be backed by state and territory governments which receive revenues from the tax.

"I will raise it with the states at the next meeting of the treasurers in July," Hockey told student Subeta Vimalarajah whose "Stop Taxing My Period!' petition has attracted 93,500 signatures.

In her online petition, Vimalarajah pointed out that "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 2, 3, 4 weeks?".

"Taxing Australians for getting their period isn't just sexist, it's fundamentally unfair!", she said.

Asked about the proposal on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott backed away from giving a view.

"When it comes to the GST, it is a state tax," he told reporters in Canberra.

"My preference is that the states and territories should make up their minds whether they want any changes to the GST and, if they do, then they are welcome to come to us."

The opposition Labor Party said it would support any move to remove taxes from tampons and sanitary pads.

A petition calling for Britain's five percent sales tax on tampons to be scrapped has attracted more than 230,000 signatories since its launch a year ago, but due to European Union rules such a move is unlikely.

Similar petitions are currently underway in France, Italy, Malaysia and Canada.