New York City’s Historical Sanitary Product Legislation

New York City has made history this month with the passage of the very first legislative passage of a package that ensures access to menstrual products in public schools, homeless and women’s shelters, and correctional facilities. This makes New York a leader, out in front of a global and national movement for equality in pricing, taxation, and availability of menstrual products as a health and sanitation necessity.

The subject of menstruation has been a taboo for many years, decades, even centuries. In fact, to many, the hullabaloo around the passage of this legislation may seem silly or even wasteful. But this city and this new law show acknowledgement from the local government that education, economics, policy, and health are all tied up in this important issue. It is often cited as one of the most problematic issues surrounding homeless women, is often ignored in public education, which can lead young women to sickness or anxiety, and for women who are incarcerated, it can become an impossible-to-solve problem.

The issue surrounding menstrual products also includes the amount of worldwide governments that placed the necessary items in the category of “luxury tax.” New York was just recently the sixth state in the US to eliminate the sales tax on these items. In an average situation, one woman in the US could end up spending an extra $2,000 in tax on sanitary products in her life. State taxes vary, but most states do not have a tax for necessities, like toilet paper or staple foods. Until recently, sanitary products for women have not fallen in the “staple goods’ category.

From the NYTimes: “Canada abolished its national Goods and Services Tax on menstrual products last summer. A petition in the United Kingdom garnered more than 300,000 signatures and spurred a ruling by the European Union to allow member states to reduce the Value Added Tax on menstrual products to zero. Kenya not only eliminated the tax but also since 2011 has budgeted the equivalent of $3 million per year to distribute free sanitary pads in schools in low-income communities.

In the United States this year, fifteen of the 40 states that still have a “tampon tax” moved to change it. Illinois and New York State both passed laws that now await their respective governor’s signature; Connecticut eliminated the tampon tax in its budget, effective 2018. Just last week, the American Medical Association released a statement urging states to exempt menstrual products from sales tax.”

The proposal by City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, makes pads and tampons available to 300,000 schoolgirls, 23,000 women in shelters, and now enforces legal requirements for stocking sanitary supplies for inmates of jails and correctional facilities.

On Tuesday, June 21st, 2016, the vote passed 49–0. Mayor Bill De Blasio needs to sign the bill into law, but has supported the proposal in the past and is expects to sign the proposal into law.

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