Movements to Reduce Taxation on Sanitary Products -Comparison of world trend and situation in Japan-

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Movements to Reduce Taxation on Sanitary Products

-Comparison of world trend and situation in Japan-


On October first, 2019, Japan’s consumption tax has been raised to 10%. In line with this

policy, Japanese government has announced that some of the items people consume in

everyday life would be categorized as “reduced taxation-items” in order to lessen the

burden of those who are in financially difficult situations. However, despite this

government’s attempt, the “reduced taxation-items” has sparked a huge discussion and

movements regarding inclusion of sanitary items for women as reduced taxation-items.

From the following part, this article examines the society’s attitudes towards the sanitary

items around the globe and compare them with those of Japan.

What is “Reduced taxation system” ?

Reduced taxation system is introduced all around the world, and its degree of influence on

the society varies in each country. In general, foods, beverages, books, newspaper, and

services that are necessary in daily life is commonly classified as reduced taxation-

items. However, the standard of reduced taxation system is so ambiguous and complex

that it is not uncommon to see the battle between the company and the government in

the court, arguing whether or not to include certain item as reduced taxation-items.


Sanitary items have been one of the items that cause discussion between government

policy makers and women around the world. However, since 2004, when Kenyan

government first abolished the tax on sanitary items, which is so called “tampon tax”, the

world has become more aware of the significance of tackling tampon tax.

Period Poverty

According to the research by girls’ rights charity Plan International UK, currently one in ten

girls (10 per cent) have been unable to afford sanitary wear, and one in seven girls (15 per

cent) have struggled to afford sanitary wear in UK, known as period poverty. This

situation can also deprive girls from education opportunities in schools since girls who

cannot afford to purchase sanitary items are not able to go to school when they have their


In order to correct the educational inequality caused by period poverty, Scotland

has become another country to make a big step forward in 2020, February. Scotland’s

parliament unanimously approved the Period Product Bill, which ensures that tampons and

sanitary items are available to anyone who needs them. The Bill’s influence will be

enormous since it puts a legal duty on local authorities so that they have to be prepared to

ensure that all the women in need of period products can obtain them for free. This

Scotland’s Bill is believed to be a benchmark for countries that are considering to introduce

a similar policy in tackling period poverty.

Taxation on sanitary products in Japan

In Japan, reduced taxation items can apply to daily foods, beverages, and paper-based

newspaper, but not to sanitary products. Although Japanese people got upset by

government’s guideline, which generates discussion among citizens, Japanese government

has not changed its attitude towards “reduced taxation items”. In other words, there would

be no tax deduction for sanitary products in Japan. Japanese government claims that

guideline for reduced taxation has been framed by following the world standard, thereby

daily foods, beverages, and newspaper are categorized as reduced taxation items.

However, clearly, this claim by the government contradicts itself if we consider the world

trend, which is discussed previously.

In response to the government’s policy concerning the reduced taxation items, one

Japanese university girl started an online petition in order to send as many citizen’s voices

as possible to the government to let them change their attitudes. The fact that this

university girl’s petition site has earned more than 40,000 votes within a year shows that

Japanese people aspires social changes with regard to sanitary items. If the government

claims that its policy is designed under world standard, then it has to follow the world

trend and movements around world at the same time.

How will Japanese government tackle the issue in the future?

Gender Gap in Japan

Needless to say, Japan is Asia’s superpower and its influence on culture, economy, politics

is huge. Though Japan’s national economy is likely to shrink due to the decrease of the

population and the low birth late, Tokyo will undoubtedly remain as one of the most

influential cities in the world. However, considering the standard of gender equality, we can

see a quite bizarre situation. In fact, in the most recent Global Gender Gap Report

announced by the World Economic Forum on December 17, 2019, Japan ranked 121st

out of 153 countries, which is a drop of 11 places from 110th in 2018. In the political

empowerment category, the world average percentage of women participation stands

around 25.2% of parliamentary positions and 21.2% of ministerial positions.

Government’s vision

The Abe administration placed “a society where all women will shine” as their top

priority, but if women have to pay a great amount of money for period products

throughout their life and government does not care their burden, women will not “shine”

in society.

Even though it might be difficult for the government to

make a crucial decision within a short period of time,

government should at least move a discussion forward

in the diet so that all people in Japan will be active in

the society regardless of gender.


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