Illus¬≠tra¬≠tion by Mag¬≠dalena Otter¬≠st¬≠edt / Kopf√ľber Design for Vulvani

Men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts in Ger¬≠many were taxed with the increased tax rate of 19 per¬≠cent (also known as lux¬≠ury tax rate) until the end of 2019. After much lob¬≠by¬≠ing and with the suc¬≠cess¬≠ful peti¬≠tion ‚ÄėPeri¬≠ods are not a lux¬≠ury‚Äô, two men¬≠strual activists from Ham¬≠burg, Ger¬≠many man¬≠aged to change the tax rate for men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts. Start¬≠ing Jan¬≠u¬≠ary 01, 2020, fol¬≠low¬≠ing the approval of the Ger¬≠man Bun¬≠desrat, all men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts (except panty lin¬≠ers! ‚Äď for what¬≠ever rea¬≠son) will finally be sub¬≠ject to the reduced tax rate of seven percent!

Ger¬≠man tax sys¬≠tem: 7% vs. 19%

There are two dif¬≠fer¬≠ent tax rates in Ger¬≠many. The reduced tax rate of seven per¬≠cent applies to prod¬≠ucts of daily use. This is intended to relieve peo¬≠ple finan¬≠cially when pur¬≠chas¬≠ing basic neces¬≠si¬≠ties such as food or toi¬≠let paper. How¬≠ever, prod¬≠ucts that are cer¬≠tainly not part of every¬≠day shop¬≠ping are also sub¬≠ject to the sim¬≠pli¬≠fied tax rate. These include, for exam¬≠ple, salmon caviar, cut flow¬≠ers or paint¬≠ings. Men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts, on the other hand, were taxed at the increased tax rate of 19 per¬≠cent, col¬≠lo¬≠qui¬≠ally known as the tam¬≠pon tax. Like really? Aren‚Äôt these prod¬≠ucts of daily use as well? The tax rate implied that men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts are not basic needs. But are tam¬≠pons, pads or men¬≠strual cups really a lux¬≠ury? Unfor¬≠tu¬≠nately not. The increased tax¬≠a¬≠tion did not rep¬≠re¬≠sent the truth. Because unless you prac¬≠tice free bleed¬≠ing, men¬≠stru¬≠at¬≠ing peo¬≠ple with¬≠out the nec¬≠es¬≠sary men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts are pretty much lost. Peri¬≠ods are there¬≠fore not a lux¬≠ury that we treat our¬≠selves in month after month!

Global activism against the tam¬≠pon tax

In recent years, var¬≠i¬≠ous ini¬≠tia¬≠tives have been formed world¬≠wide to cam¬≠paign to remove the tam¬≠pon tax. The demand is often sim¬≠i¬≠lar: politi¬≠cians should recog¬≠nise period prod¬≠ucts as a basic need and reduce tax rates accord¬≠ingly. There have already been pos¬≠i¬≠tive exam¬≠ples on an inter¬≠na¬≠tional level who have acted against the tax dis¬≠crim¬≠i¬≠na¬≠tion of men¬≠stru¬≠at¬≠ing peo¬≠ple. For it is time that the neces¬≠sity of equal rights is under¬≠stood and lived at all (polit¬≠i¬≠cal) lev¬≠els. In 2020, there is no longer any room for sex¬≠ism in our tax sys¬≠tem and the sys¬≠tem¬≠atic dis¬≠crim¬≠i¬≠na¬≠tion of men¬≠stru¬≠at¬≠ing people.

Who are the faces behind the peti¬≠tion ‚ÄėPeri¬≠ods are not a luxury‚Äô?

Nanna-Josephine Roloff and Yasemin Kotra have together launched the peti¬≠tion ‚ÄėPerios are not a lux¬≠ury ‚Äď lower the tam¬≠pon tax!‚Äô On March 8, 2018 they pub¬≠lished the peti¬≠tion on the online plat¬≠form change.org, con¬≠viently the Inter¬≠na¬≠tional Womxn‚Äôs Day. It demands that men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts in Ger¬≠many should be regarded as basic needs and be taxed at the sim¬≠pli¬≠fied tax rate of seven per¬≠cent. The tam¬≠pon tax is also a sym¬≠bol of jus¬≠tice and the increased tax rate of 19 per¬≠cent dis¬≠crim¬≠i¬≠nates against all men¬≠stru¬≠at¬≠ing people.

‚ÄėWe don‚Äôt want to just keep observ¬≠ing, we want to par¬≠tic¬≠i¬≠pate. Par¬≠tic¬≠i¬≠pat¬≠ing and fight¬≠ing for equal rights and women‚Äôs rights. But where should we start? We decided to put our fin¬≠ger on the sore spot of sys¬≠temic dis¬≠crim¬≠i¬≠na¬≠tion and do some¬≠thing about the unfair tax¬≠a¬≠tion of our men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion. An injus¬≠tice that we can no longer tolerate!‚Äô

Per­sis­tence and lobbying

The two activists have man¬≠aged again and again to get the media‚Äôs atten¬≠tion, large and small, to report on their peti¬≠tion. In order to place a topic in the cen¬≠tre of soci¬≠ety and to achieve a change in mind¬≠sets, media pres¬≠ence is of great impor¬≠tance. Because only in this way can taboo top¬≠ics become vis¬≠i¬≠ble and acces¬≠si¬≠ble to the broad masses. And the inter¬≠na¬≠tional press has also become aware of the two women from Ham¬≠burg ‚Äď and rightly so! In the last 1.5 years, they have found more than 180,000 sup¬≠port¬≠ers for their peti¬≠tion and con¬≠vinced politi¬≠cians with their argu¬≠ments and per¬≠se¬≠ver¬≠ance. And the result is impres¬≠sive: Men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts will be taxed in Ger¬≠many from Jan¬≠u¬≠ary 2020 only with the sim¬≠pli¬≠fied tax rate of seven per¬≠cent. Goodybe tam¬≠pon tax, because peri¬≠ods are not a luxury!

Thank you from the bot¬≠tom of my heart

The suc¬≠cess¬≠ful peti¬≠tion and the tire¬≠less efforts of Yasemin and Nanna have paid off, because since Jan¬≠u¬≠ary 2020, men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts are now only taxed at seven per¬≠cent. Thank you for your innu¬≠mer¬≠able dis¬≠cus¬≠sions with politi¬≠cians, thank you for your edu¬≠ca¬≠tional work, thank you for your per¬≠se¬≠ver¬≠ance, thank you for nor¬≠mal¬≠iz¬≠ing men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion! Thank you, thank you, thank you! But this is only the begin¬≠ning. I am curi¬≠ous to see which sleepy politi¬≠cians will be woken up by the these two and where their men¬≠strual jour¬≠ney will take them. The next project is already in the mak¬≠ing: free men¬≠strual prod¬≠ucts in pub¬≠lic toi¬≠lets in Ham¬≠burg. I‚Äôm def¬≠i¬≠nitely a huge fan of the two and will fol¬≠low every step atten¬≠tively and with a lot of curios¬≠ity ‚Äď and you should do the same!

What about panty liners?

The new tax¬≠a¬≠tion is almost com¬≠pletely suc¬≠cess¬≠ful. Unfor¬≠tu¬≠nately, a small ques¬≠tions remains. Because the reduced tax rate applies to all period prod¬≠ucts except panty lin¬≠ers. This means that panty lin¬≠ers are still taxed at 19 per¬≠cent. You might ask your¬≠self why? So do we! It is said that panty lin¬≠ers are not used exclu¬≠sively for men¬≠stru¬≠a¬≠tion, but rather for daily use. Unfor¬≠tu¬≠nately, the logic of politi¬≠cians makes no sense at all. Because the reduced tax rate is sup¬≠posed to apply to prod¬≠ucts of daily use. Well, at least the men¬≠strual world remains exciting.

Britta Wiebe, CEO, female founder, weibliche Gr√ľnderin, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Founder Vul­vani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-founder of Vul­vani. She loves research­ing, writ­ing and design­ing new arti­cles or inno­v­a­tive edu­ca­tional con­cepts about men­stru­a­tion all day long. When she is not trav­el­ling the world, she enjoys spend­ing time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.