Having a period in Italy is a luxury. While women don’t choose to have it, the government chooses to tax them for it. Of course, a government made of men. In fact, in 75 years of the Republic, only 319 women were ministers, presidents, or representatives. That’s 6.56% of the total. They all had their period. Still, their opinions didn’t matter in the tampon tax debate.
The country classifies tampons and any period products as a luxury product. Hence, the tax on them is 22%. Just the opposite of first necessity items that are taxed. An example of this is bread and specific medications. Plus, razors for men. Indeed, razors for shaving are considered a product of necessity. On the other hand, tampons and women’s products are a luxury. While the government has been talking about reducing the tampon tax to 5%, some pharmacies decided to act.
Local businesses suspend the tampon tax in Italy
In Milan, 91 Lloyds stores have suspended the tax for seven months, until the end of 2021. In Naples, the Farmacia Segreto SAS has completely suspended the tampon tax, an initiative of the business’ owner Francesco Segreto. He will have to pay the difference out of this pocket, but Segreto doesn’t mind.
“Enough of taxes on women, we need to learn to respect nature,” Segreto said to Vesuvio Online, “from now on, my pharmacy will eliminate it, on any type of tampon. Because having the period isn’t a luxury.”
The city of Bologna believes the same. And it acted instead of discussing. In fact, the city abolished this tax, making sure women can afford what they need. Because it’s not an extra, this is a necessity. How did these local pharmacies go around the tax? By applying a 22% discount to all items. Indeed, the citizens react. In the meantime, the government is still discussing.
Endless political debate
In 2019, the Parliament approved a law that would drop the tampon tax in Italy to 5%. But there is a catch. The catch is, this applies only to eco-friendly products. In fact, the proposal was to drop the tax to 10% on all female items, no distinction. The issue is that these items are difficult to find, more expensive, and they don’t flood the market.
By playing the environmental card, the Italian, male politicians kept the tampon tax in Italy. Also, they didn’t debate changing the rules on male razors.
“Women can’t go without these hygienic products during their period,” the politicians behind the 5% proposal wrote, “it’s obvious that the current tampon tax in Italy is unfair and discriminatory.” The discrimination isn’t just about gender, also about economics.
The cost of menstruations
On average, a woman has 460 menstrual periods during her fertile life. Once again, on average the period lasts five days, using approximately five tampons daily. Hence, 11.500 tampons during the 460 periods. Since a packet costs at least euro 3, the total cost of a woman’s period is euro 4.410. These numbers are optimistic averages, since tampons are getting more and more expensive. So, it is more difficult to afford for women who have financial issues.
But the government doesn’t consider these numbers. And the debate on periods continues and the talk is all done by men. Even when it comes to menstrual leave. Periods can be painful and there is a proposal stuck in the Italian Parliament since 2016. The politicians behind it wrote that between 60 and 90% of Italian women suffer due to their menstruations.
Due to these pains, 15% of women stay at home during their period. That’s why instituting menstrual leave is important. But it’s been sitting on the ministers’ tables for five years. Even fighting these menstrual pain is expensive. These costs add to ones from the tampons, making period pricier.
So, it’s expensive, painful, and not a luxury. While the government debates, perhaps citizens will keep stepping up, like activists did for sign language.