The pink tax is when one is charged more for products which are for women. One such product would be a razor blade, where just because it is for women, one may have to pay more; sometimes even twice as much. In America, it is calculated that by the time a women is 30, she would have paid around $40,000 more than her male counterparts for more or less the same products, labelled as being ‘for women’, be they shaving foam, beauty products, medicines, clothes, toys or basic necessities like pads and tampons. This discrimination is being tackled in other countries, while here in Malta, the silence is deafening.
Many have hardly heard about pink tax, let alone about period poverty, which is something which should be have to be tackled not today, but should have been yesterday. On average, counting all ‘period days’, a woman bleeds between 6 to 10 years during her lifetime, resulting in a major extra expense, which one may calculate to be roughly between 10 to 15 Euros a month. There may also be additional costs such as pain medication and particular types of sanitary products. Women are not all the same, in case some haven’t noticed!
Sanitary pads and tampons here in Malta are not yet considered as an essential product. VAT is paid on these products as if it were just another item. Although some people may deem 10 to 15 Euros a paltry amount, period poverty is a reality. We are no different from other countries. The lack of menstrual hygiene is a problem for many, and it is something we need to tackle if as a society we respect women.
Scotland was the first nation which started distributing period products on a national level. The law states that local authorities are obliged to ensure that free items such as tampons and sanitary pads are available to “anyone who needs them”. In other countries like France, tampons and pads are distributed freely in students’ residences and university health services. Same happens in some states in the United States and in New Zealand too. So, what about Malta?
We should follow the steps of the Scottish and declare tampons and pads a necessity accessible for free to any girl or woman, as the Scottish law states for “anyone who needs them”. It should be available to everyone, as periods are hardly a luxury. Pick-up points should be easily accessible. Schools would be a good place to start, together with local clinics. Whoever asks for the products gets them, no questions asked. The message so far is that for society in Malta, the importance of basic female healthcare has always taken a back burner and deemed not important (case in point the long discussions to introduce the MAP and the refusal to even discuss reproductive rights). The easy accessibility of free sanitary pads and tampons will help the poorest women and girls in our society who sometimes skip school, or appointments as they cannot afford to manage their menstrual hygiene properly. Additionally, for products on the market – most will still choose to buy their products from shops – VAT rates should be the minimum possible, and possibly even 0% like medicines. Let’s stop taxing women for being women.
ADPD Executive Member
Published on The Malta Independent – Sunday 17 May 2021