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Tax, Inequality, and Human Rights$
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Philip G. Alston and Nikki R. Reisch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190882228

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190882228.001.0001

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Human Rights and the Taxation of Menstrual Hygiene Products in an Unequal World

Human Rights and the Taxation of Menstrual Hygiene Products in an Unequal World

(p.449) Chapter 20 Human Rights and the Taxation of Menstrual Hygiene Products in an Unequal World
Tax, Inequality, and Human Rights

Bridget J. Crawford

Carla Spivack

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the gender biases embedded in facially neutral tax laws, focusing specifically on so-called “tampon taxes,” levies exacted on menstrual hygiene products. In most of the states in the United States, menstrual hygiene products are subject to sales tax. Meanwhile, in much of the European Union, these products are treated as luxuries and are subject to the highest rate of VAT. The various human rights affected by tampon taxes include the rights to be free from discrimination, to health, to education, to work, and to dignity. The chapter then considers potential venues and strategies for legal challenges in the European Union, the United States, and elsewhere. Strikingly, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) precedents cited concerning gender discrimination all involve suits brought by men complaining of disparate treatment—much as some of the earliest cases recognizing gender discrimination in the United States were brought by men.

Keywords:   gender biases, tax laws, tampon taxes, menstrual hygiene products, sales tax, luxury tax, VAT, human rights, gender discrimination

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