As of 2020, the tax for tampons will drop for 19% to 7% -- a big win for those who advocate the change as well as woman rights in general.
Our society has become progressive in many regards, but menstruation has remained a taboo. For women all around the world, menstruation brings (in addition to significant discomfort) substantial hidden costs. A rough calculation found that for women in the US, the lifetime cost of menstruation is over $18,000, with tampons alone amounting to $2,000.
Recent studies and surveys have found that many women can't afford tampons at all -- even in the developed world, be it the US or western Europe. This problem is worsened by additional taxes, which are simply unjustified.
All around the world, menstrual hygiene products are generally taxed higher than other daily necessities -- something commonly referred to as the 'tampon tax'. In several countries of the EU, tampons are taxed as luxury products.
Thankfully, things are starting to change.
Recently, Canada and several US states have scrapped the tampon tax. Several developing countries such as India and Kenya have eliminated their tampon tax -- Kenya actually being the first country in the world to do so.
It's surprising then that Germany, one of the world's more progressive countries, still had a high tampon tax. In Germany, tampons are currently taxed higher than luxury items such as caviar, truffles, or salmon, say campaigners.
But all that will change as of January 1st, 2020.
The move in German parliament to scrap the tax came after an online petition from equal rights campaigners, led by Nanna-Josephine Roloff and Yasemin Kotra. The petition received around 200,000 signatures -- but it wasn't the first time something like this was brought to the attention of the German parliament. Several previous attempts have been made, but have been consistently rejected by the parliament.
Journalist Jule Schulte, who made the case against the tax to parliament argued that this happened because "the fathers of the tampon tax never had a period."
She may be very right. More than two-thirds of German parliament are men, a figure which shows no signs of dropping in recent years.
"It is not surprising that such topics are given little attention in a parliament composed mostly of men," says Ulle Schauws, the parliamentary Green party spokeswoman for women and queer politics. "The period is still a taboo topic in 2019," says Green Party politician Schauws. "Above all we have to make it clear to young girls that this is nothing disgusting."
It's not clear why the parliament was more receptive this time, but they ultimately passed a law to reduce the tax from 19% to 7% -- basically moving the tax from 'luxury' to 'basic necessities'.
Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland still have very high tampon taxes (24-25%), while countries such as Ireland and Malta have dropped it completely, as have 12 US states: Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and Rhode Island.