Germany will no longer tax tampons and other menstrual products as luxury items, according to the New York Times.
Instead, the products will be reclassified as “necessary for everyday life,” which will reduce the value-added tax rate applied to them from 19% to 7%. The new legislation passed last week and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
The reclassification stemmed from a campaign started by the activists Nanna-Josephine Roloff and Yasemin Kotra, who argued that taxing these items as luxury goods discriminated against women and therefore violated the country’s constitution, which prohibits unequal treatment under the law.
Their campaign, in turn, is part of a broader, global effort to remove the stigma surrounding menstruation, expand access to menstrual products, and end sexist tax practices. Dozens of countries around the world tax tampons and menstrual products as luxury items, including Hungary, which levies a 27% tax on them, and Denmark and Sweden, which add a 25% tax each.
The European Union encourages member states to tax these goods at no more than 5%.
In Germany, activists drew attention to the many products that are classified as “necessary for everyday life” including collectible coins and movie tickets as a way to highlight the absurdity of taxing menstrual products, which help people manage a natural bodily process, as luxury goods. After all, people who menstruate spend an average of seven years of their lives menstruating.
The high prices of tampons and other menstrual products often leads to“period poverty,” when girls and women are unable to safely manage their periods and have to resort to hodgepodge and often dangerous methods.
This problem is magnified for the billions of women and girls who lack access to clean water and basic sanitation around the world.
Period poverty often causes girls and women to skip school and work, face harassment and discrimination, and miss out on opportunities. In Nepal, for instance, menstruating girls and women are often banished to “menstrual huts. In some instances, women in these isolated shacks have suffocated from smoke inhalation or been bitten by deadly snakes.
Eliminating the tampon tax around the world can empower women and girls and remove the stigmas that haunt menstruation, advocates argue.