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Campaigners are celebrating the removal of the tampon tax from female sanitary products.
State and territory treasurers agreed on Wednesday morning that the 10% Goods and Services Tax will be axed, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison threw his support behind the change in August.
CEO of Jasiri Australia Caitlin Figueirdo said Wednesday was a time for celebration, as the country had finally reversed a ‘bias law’.
It is also symbolic of the slow deconstruction of the sexism entrenched in government
Ms Figueirdo’s organisation works to empower young women through self defence, leadership and advocacy programs, and was part of the vocal community push to axe the tax.
“A number of our participants believed that the tax was not only unfair and discriminatory, but it had a financial impact on their future,” she said.
Kemiso Matlho is one of the Jasiri participants and described the decision as "monumental".
“This removal means that the opinions of women and girls are heard and their bodies valued, instead of being an opportunity for revenue,” Ms Matlho said.
“It is also symbolic of the slow deconstruction of the sexism entrenched in government,” she said.
Ms Matlho said it was an understatement to say the change was overdue, particularly as the tax unfairly affected marginalised women.
“Individuals experiencing homelessness, escaping domestic violence, or who are in remote and rural indigenous communities will have increased access to essential menstrual products,” she said.
Jasiri was also part of the #AxetheTax campaign run by Share the Dignity, a charity that supplies free sanitary items to disadvantaged women.
Share the Dignity’s campaign, led by CEO Rochelle Courtenay, gathered more than 104,000 signatures in 30 days, which was Australia’s most signed online petition.
Ms Courtenay described the news of the axe as an "unforgettable moment" on Facebook.
“This would not have happened without the incredible support of each and every person who signed our petition, who spoke to their local member of parliament, who pounded the pavements with us in protest,” her post read.
“This is the result of your hard work, and of the amazing collective that is Australian women,” she wrote.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the decision saying it was "good news" for Australian women.
“It’s common-sense and it’s a reform that has been long overdue,” he said.
Only months earlier, Scott Morrison as then-Treasurer said he did not support axing the tax, as he did not believe the states, whose approval is required to change the law, were on board.
Labor had pledged earlier this year to remove the tax if elected to government.
At the time of this Labor announcement, Shadow Federal Health Minister Catherine King said the tax should never have been applied in the first place.
“For nearly two decades women have been paying this tax and they shouldn’t have to pay it another day,” Ms King said.
The tampon tax delivers about $30 million to the government each year. Currently, the tax costs the average woman up to $1000 across her lifetime.
Sanitary items are taxed as they are considered ‘luxury’ goods, but many campaigners pointed out the hypocrisy of the tax, as condoms and Viagra are exempt.
Lavanya Kala is a member of the Harmony Alliance Young Women’s Advisory Group who advocate for young migrant and refugee women.
Ms Kala said the removal of the tax was particularly significant for migrant and refugee women, as they are disproportionately affected, and often excluded from policy debate about issues like this.
“It is an important step to reducing period poverty for women in all their diversity in Australia,” she said.
But while Ms Kala praised the tax removal as an important first step, she said there was much more to do to improve society’s treatment of women and periods.
“More work needs to be done to reduce stigmas and harmful stereotypes associated with menstruation,” she said.
The tax will be removed from January 1, 2019.