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Period products at French universities: free tampons from the machine

Universities in France provide menstrual supplies free of charge. Other countries are also fighting period poverty. Germany is lagging behind.

From now on available for free at French universities: Period products such as tampons Photo: Isabel Lott

BERLINtaz / afp | In France, female students will in future receive free tampons and sanitary towels - from machines that will be installed in university dormitories and health centers in the coming weeks. "We are planning 1,500 machines," said University Minister Frédérique Vidal on Tuesday during a visit to Poitiers, where she announced the measure. At the beginning of the semester in September, the donors should also be on the university premises.

New Zealand announced a similar move. Schools there are to provide free menstrual items from June this year, Prime Minister Jacida Ardern said last week. According to her, one in twelve young people in New Zealand regularly stays away from class because they cannot afford period products. In New Zealand, the free tampons and sanitary towels are being combined with an information campaign to counteract the stigmatization of menstrual bleeding and the associated insecurities.

Schools and colleges in Scotland had been making menstrual products available for a long time before Parliament in Edinburgh passed a bill at the end of November to allow free products to be offered in public facilities. Every woman should be able to help herself there. How exactly the articles should really be received by everyone is still being worked out.

This makes Scotland a pioneer in the fight against period poverty. According to a 2015 study from Great Britain, women spend an average of 500 euros a year and 20,500 euros in life on products they need during menstruation: tampons, menstrual cups, pain relievers and new underpants.

At least no longer a luxury item

In Germany, there is still a long way to go from free supply. It was not until the turn of the year 2019/2020 that the tax rate on menstrual items was lowered from twelve to seven percent, meaning that the products are no longer classified as luxury goods. Unfortunately, customers have not benefited much from it so far: Many manufacturers have simply raised their prices.

In other countries such as India, Ireland, Kenya or Canada, at least no more taxes are levied on basic hygiene products. Most recently, Australia abolished ten percent taxation in 2019.

The French government seems to understand that period articles are an enormous financial burden. The free supply at the universities is part of a package of measures that is intended to relieve students in the corona crisis.

President Emmanuel Macron had already announced one-euro meals and psychological support for students in January. In France, too, young people complain of being lonely due to online lectures and financial problems because traditional jobs, for example in catering, are being dropped.