March 24, 2016 6:27 AM EDT

On March 17, European Union leaders agreed to allow its 28 member states to remove sales taxes on sanitary products, dubbed “tampon taxes,” after protests and petitions in the U.K. and France. It’s part of a global movement to exempt sanitary items from taxation:


The government removed taxes, including a 5% goods-and-services tax (GST), on all feminine-hygiene products in July 2015, after almost 75,000 people signed petitions against their classification as “luxury” items.


Sanitary goods have been subject to a 10% GST since 2000. Australians have staged protests against the levy, which is not applied to items like sunscreen and condoms. However, state and territory treasurers failed to remove it when they met in August 2015.


A day before the E.U. decision, Chicago repealed a city tax on tampons and sanitary napkins, urging Illinois to join the five U.S. states that have dropped sales taxes on them completely. But nationwide, 40 states still apply sales taxes to these products.


In 2015, women discovered that a new GST had them paying an additional 6% on sanitary products. But the appetite for its removal is not shared by all; a parliamentary debate on a proposed exemption reportedly drew laughter from some lawmakers.


This appears in the April 04, 2016 issue of TIME.

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