This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Honora Gibbons.
D.C. Council members and women’s advocates testified Wednesday in favor of a proposed bill that would eliminate sales taxes on feminine hygiene products and diapers.
The Feminine Hygiene and Diapers Sales Tax Exemption Amendment, introduced in the spring by Council members Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh and LaRuby May, would make feminine hygiene products, like pads and tampons, and diapers exempt from D.C. sales taxes. During the the first public hearing Wednesday, the Council heard from people in support of the bill who said it will relieve burdens on women and promote gender equality.
The bill is listed as under review by the D.C. Council on the Council’s legislative website.
Bonds, an at-large Council member, said during the public hearing that she supports the bill because it promotes gender equity, which she has focused on throughout her time as a Council member.
“This bill seeks to garner attention in an issue that is increasing in interest around the country and is a first step to gender equity,” Bonds said.
Some states have preceded D.C. in exempting feminine hygiene products and diapers from additional sales taxes. Eight states have repealed taxes on tampons, Bonds said at the hearing. She added that another seven states also exempt diapers, including adult diapers, from sales taxes.
Junior Eve Zhurbinskiy planned to testify on behalf of students in support of the bill but was unable to attend the hearing. Zhurbinskiy, who is also a commissioner for the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said she plans to submit a written testimony, in which she calls the current taxes on feminine hygiene products discriminatory against women.
“In a city that values human rights, no one should be taxed for who they are,” she wrote in the testimony. “And for adults who struggle with incontinence, this tax acts as an unnecessary barrier to fulfilling basic healthcare needs.”
Zhurbinskiy also suggested in her testimony that the bill include “period underwear” under the list of products that are tax-exempt.
Other D.C. residents who testified in favor of the bill said taxes place an unfair burden on women.
Law students from the University of the District of Columbia testified, saying that otherwise affordable products become expensive with the taxes.
“These products come at a considerable price, which is exacerbated by the additional tax,” Aysha Iqbal, a law student at The University of the District of Columbia, said.
Aisha N. Braveboy, a manager at the Children’s National Health System, said the bill “promotes parity” for women’s and children’s health. The bill would especially benefit young or single mothers, she added.
“These products are essential to basic survival, and it’s really difficult for a lot of families to afford the cost of these items,” Braveboy said.