Illus­tra­tion by Mag­dalena Otterstedt / Kop­füber Design for Vulvani

Men­strual products in Ger­many were taxed with the increased tax rate of 19 per­cent (also known as lux­ury tax rate) until the end of 2019. After much lob­by­ing and with the suc­cess­ful peti­tion ‘Peri­ods are not a lux­ury’, two men­strual act­iv­ists from Ham­burg, Ger­many man­aged to change the tax rate for men­strual products. Start­ing Janu­ary 01, 2020, fol­low­ing the approval of the Ger­man Bundes­rat, all men­strual products (except panty liners! – for whatever reason) will finally be sub­ject to the reduced tax rate of seven percent!

Ger­man tax sys­tem: 7% vs. 19%

There are two dif­fer­ent tax rates in Ger­many. The reduced tax rate of seven per­cent applies to products of daily use. This is inten­ded to relieve people fin­an­cially when pur­chas­ing basic neces­sit­ies such as food or toi­let paper. How­ever, products that are cer­tainly not part of every­day shop­ping are also sub­ject to the sim­pli­fied tax rate. These include, for example, sal­mon caviar, cut flowers or paint­ings. Men­strual products, on the other hand, were taxed at the increased tax rate of 19 per­cent, col­lo­qui­ally known as the tam­pon tax. Like really? Aren’t these products of daily use as well? The tax rate implied that men­strual products are not basic needs. But are tam­pons, pads or men­strual cups really a lux­ury? Unfor­tu­nately not. The increased tax­a­tion did not rep­res­ent the truth. Because unless you prac­tice free bleed­ing, men­stru­at­ing people without the neces­sary men­strual products are pretty much lost. Peri­ods are there­fore not a lux­ury that we treat ourselves in month after month!

Global act­iv­ism against the tam­pon tax

In recent years, vari­ous ini­ti­at­ives have been formed world­wide to cam­paign to remove the tam­pon tax. The demand is often sim­ilar: politi­cians should recog­nise period products as a basic need and reduce tax rates accord­ingly. There have already been pos­it­ive examples on an inter­na­tional level who have acted against the tax dis­crim­in­a­tion of men­stru­at­ing people. For it is time that the neces­sity of equal rights is under­stood and lived at all (polit­ical) levels. In 2020, there is no longer any room for sex­ism in our tax sys­tem and the sys­tem­atic dis­crim­in­a­tion of men­stru­at­ing people.

Who are the faces behind the peti­tion ‘Peri­ods are not a luxury’?

Nanna-Josephine Roloff and Yasemin Kotra have together launched the peti­tion ‘Perios are not a lux­ury – lower the tam­pon tax!’ On March 8, 2018 they pub­lished the peti­tion on the online plat­form change.org, con­vi­ently the Inter­na­tional Womxn’s Day. It demands that men­strual products in Ger­many should be regarded as basic needs and be taxed at the sim­pli­fied tax rate of seven per­cent. The tam­pon tax is also a sym­bol of justice and the increased tax rate of 19 per­cent dis­crim­in­ates against all men­stru­at­ing people.

‘We don’t want to just keep observing, we want to par­ti­cip­ate. Par­ti­cip­at­ing and fight­ing for equal rights and women’s rights. But where should we start? We decided to put our fin­ger on the sore spot of sys­temic dis­crim­in­a­tion and do some­thing about the unfair tax­a­tion of our men­stru­ation. An injustice that we can no longer tolerate!’

Per­sist­ence and lobbying

The two act­iv­ists have man­aged again and again to get the media’s atten­tion, large and small, to report on their peti­tion. In order to place a topic in the centre of soci­ety and to achieve a change in mind­sets, media pres­ence is of great import­ance. Because only in this way can taboo top­ics become vis­ible and access­ible to the broad masses. And the inter­na­tional press has also become aware of the two women from Ham­burg – and rightly so! In the last 1.5 years, they have found more than 180,000 sup­port­ers for their peti­tion and con­vinced politi­cians with their argu­ments and per­sever­ance. And the res­ult is impress­ive: Men­strual products will be taxed in Ger­many from Janu­ary 2020 only with the sim­pli­fied tax rate of seven per­cent. Goodybe tam­pon tax, because peri­ods are not a luxury!

Thank you from the bot­tom of my heart

The suc­cess­ful peti­tion and the tire­less efforts of Yasemin and Nanna have paid off, because since Janu­ary 2020, men­strual products are now only taxed at seven per­cent. Thank you for your innu­mer­able dis­cus­sions with politi­cians, thank you for your edu­ca­tional work, thank you for your per­sever­ance, thank you for nor­mal­iz­ing men­stru­ation! Thank you, thank you, thank you! But this is only the begin­ning. I am curi­ous to see which sleepy politi­cians will be woken up by the these two and where their men­strual jour­ney will take them. The next pro­ject is already in the mak­ing: free men­strual products in pub­lic toi­lets in Ham­burg. I’m def­in­itely a huge fan of the two and will fol­low every step attent­ively and with a lot of curi­os­ity – and you should do the same!

What about panty liners?

The new tax­a­tion is almost com­pletely suc­cess­ful. Unfor­tu­nately, a small ques­tions remains. Because the reduced tax rate applies to all period products except panty liners. This means that panty liners are still taxed at 19 per­cent. You might ask your­self why? So do we! It is said that panty liners are not used exclus­ively for men­stru­ation, but rather for daily use. Unfor­tu­nately, the logic of politi­cians makes no sense at all. Because the reduced tax rate is sup­posed to apply to products of daily use. Well, at least the men­strual world remains exciting.

Britta Wiebe, period education, 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.