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The idea for more free gender reassignment surgeries is currently being debated at Parliament after it was first proposed by Young Labour. They want to ensure that there is public funding for hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgeries. There is currently enough funding for three surgeries every two years. The government has rejected the idea so far, saying that it isn’t an important issue for most New Zealanders. Health Minister Jonathan Coleman described the idea as “nutty” in his dismissal of the proposal, while Labour leader Andrew Little says he hasn’t given the idea much thought because he himself is happy with his gender.
There are currently 61 people on the public waiting list to undergo gender reassignment from male to female. Under the current regime, it would take 40 years for all of them to be seen. However, getting the reassignment surgery has become even more difficult since New Zealand’s only gender reassignment surgeon, Peter Walker, retired last year.
Gender dysphoria has multiple effects, among which are anxiety, negative self-image, depression and the feeling of being trapped can lead to suicidal tendencies. Being born a gender that you don’t identify with leads to all sorts of difficulties and obstacles in life—both personal and social relationships can be affected. That the New Zealand government is poised to reject further discussions of public funding shows a lack of understanding and empathy.
Thousands of women have signed a petition to stop the taxing of sanitary products. Australia and New Zealand currently include tampons in the Goods and Services tax code but this could soon change as Australia’s Treasurer has announced he will lobby the Australian government for an exemption. This followed an Australian university student’s petition which gained over 100,000 supporters. The petition argues that there shouldn’t be GST on essential health items. Some discussions of the tax exemption haven’t gone so well, with one MP comparing sanitary products to shaving cream and asking if he can start getting GST-free shaving cream. Other dialogues have been more positive and here in New Zealand the discussion will continue to be held over the next few months.
Young Labour President Katie Wilson has shown her support of the campaign and mentions that Auckland University’s Student Association has given away free pads and tampons in the past due to the overwhelming price.
This isn’t the first time that Australian women have united to petition against tampon tax—in 2000 a group called the Menstrual Avengers dressed up as superheroines and pelted cabinet ministers with pads and tampons. The 2000 attempt to exempt sanitary products from GST may not have gone through, but it did cause Australian MPs to say some crazy shit all following the lines that a tax exemption on tampons would “cause the system to unravel”. Hopefully the lobby will get further this round and open up some much needed discussion. I’m hoping they can tell us why condoms are exempt from the Goods and Services tax but tampons and pads are still seen as a taxable treat for us ladies.