Human Rights and Taxation of Menstrual Hygiene Products in an Unequal World
Tax, Inequality, and Human Rights (Philip G. Alston and Nikki Reisch eds., Oxford University Press 2019)
44 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2017 Last revised: 15 Apr 2019
Date Written: June 11, 2017
This book chapter, written in connection with the New York University School of Law Center for Human Rights and Global Justice Conference on "Human Rights and Tax in an Unequal World," argues that taxation, gender, and human rights are all linked. The authors use the lens of the "tampon tax" – sales, VAT and similar taxes imposed on menstrual hygiene products – to explain the relationship between and among affordable menstrual hygiene products and the human rights to be free from discrimination, to sanitation, to education, to dignity, and to work. The chapter refers to examples from India and Kenya to illustrate the importance of access to both affordable menstrual hygiene products and private, hygienic sanitation facilities. Some state and local governments in the United States have taken actions to facilitate access to menstrual hygiene products, including elimination of all sales taxes and the provision of free products in public schools, jails and homeless shelters. In the United States, private plaintiffs have also brought class action law suits challenging the sales tax on menstrual hygiene products. Although no similar case has come before the European Court of Human Rights or the European Court of Justice, both of those courts have recognized the links among gender, taxation, and human rights. Several European cases might be helpful precedents for a future legal challenge. Public attention to this issue remains important, and the tampon tax is part of much needed gender-focused tax reform.
Keywords: human rights, tampon tax, menstrual hygiene, VAT, sales tax, India, Kenya, European Court of Human Rights, European Court of Justice, discrimination, sanitation, education, dignity, work
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation