On Friday, November 8th, Germany eliminated the ‘tampon tax’ following a landmark vote in German Parliament. The ‘tampon tax’ is where tampons and other menstrual products are taxed as ‘luxury goods’ meaning that people have to pay an additional sales tax for that good. Meanwhile, other health-related goods are tax exempt, and considered ‘luxury items.’ Coincidentally, male health products like viagra, are tax exempt; while tampons and pads are deemed luxuries, alongside items like alcohol, hairdryers, and cigarettes. Because the government does not consider menstrual products a medical necessity, the legal barrier to period products is solidifying, meaning that prisons, educational institutions, and public facilities are not obligated to provide the products.
For years, campaigners in Germany had petitioned to change the law, arguing that the value added tax posed an unfair burden on menstruators who biologically cannot help but get their periods. The German parliament is still discussing the exact details of the reduction, which will be introduced as a portion of the 2020 tax amendments.
In response to feminist groups pushing for such legislation, opposers have argued that tampons were just one of a number of items that the state needed for tax revenue. German journalist Jule Schulte argues that “The fathers of the tampon tax never had a period.”
This debate over how much tax should be levied on menstrual products has sparked debate all around the world, and the conversation has only grown in the past few months. Many tax codes across the globe distinguish between luxury goods, and nonessential items, which are taxed more and serve as a revenue source for the government. While essential consumer goods, the state taxes at a lower rate – or not at all – to ensure equity and affordability. Activists report that because women have no choice whether to get their period or not, she should not have to pay a tax on menstrual items. In fact, many make the connection between the tampon tax, and a phenomenon known as ‘period poverty,’ an ideal in which women who are economically disenfranchised are unable to afford menstrual products, acting as a barrier to education, and careers.
That being said, Germany is behind just a few other countries globally that have nationally dismantled the tampon tax. Canada, India, Kenya, and Australia have all adopted a zero tax on menstrual products.
By Maggie Di Sanza