Last month, the Chamber of Representatives unanimously passed a bill putting an end to the so-called "tampon tax". This means that VAT on female sanitary products will be lowered from 21 to 6%.
A long-fought battle of feminist organisations, the abolition of the tampon tax builds on the EU directive on VAT (2006), which lays out a list of products and services to which reduced VAT rates can be applied. Sanitary protection products can benefit from such reduced rates, just like medical equipment or foodstuffs.
Belgium is not the first EU member state to implement reduced VAT rates on menstrual products. In France, a similar reduced rate has been applied for more than two years. In the United Kingdom, a 5% rate was implemented back in 2001. In August 2017, British multinational retailer Tesco even started covering the remaining share of VAT on over a hundred different feminine hygiene products.
According to the LMDE, a French student insurance company, the lifetime cost of menstruating ranges from 1500 to 2000 euros. In the UK, it is estimated that one in ten woman cannot afford sanitary products. It goes without saying that it will take much more than simply reducing or scrapping VAT on menstrual products to fight period poverty.