Kosovo Activists Seek End to Period Products Tax and Stigma

Activists gave away free period products to highlight how, despite repeated calls for change, they are still taxed at 18 per cent in Kosovo.

Women’s rights activists in Kosovo marked International Menstrual Hygiene Day on Tuesday by distributing free period products and calling for an end to the stigma surrounding menstruation.

For years, activists in Kosovo have called on successive governments to cut the tax on period products to bring it into line with goods considered essential, such as bread, i.e. eight per cent rather than the current 18 per cent, or, better still, for the tax to be scrapped altogether.

Politicians have repeatedly rebuffed the request, arguing it may trigger a domino effect, such as calls for tax cuts on products such as nappies.

But if one woman spends five euros every month on period products and a little more on painkillers, a mother of two daughters faces spending around 20 euros on herself and her children for what is a basic biological need.

If that woman is in Kosovo, there’s a good chance she will have to ask her husband for the money; barely 118,000 women in Kosovo are in official employment, while the minimum wage for over-35s is just 170 euros.

“When it comes to the budget, this is a matter of poverty because in Kosovo 25 per cent live in poverty and five per cent live in extreme poverty,” said Elirjeta Beka from the NGO Kosovo Women’s Network, KWN. “And it is said that if we remove the tax on menstrual products, then women will also ask for it for nappies.”

Speaking at a conference to mark the day, Beka said that menstruation remains a taboo topic in Kosovo and that this will not change until children are taught about it properly. “When I was a child, when they were teaching us about the menstrual cycle, the teachers removed the boys from the classroom,” she said.

Free menstrual products and brochures with information on menstrual cycles by NGO QIKA in Pristina. Photo: BIRN/Verone Zymberi

Magbule Hyseni, director of EcoKosWomen, said the NGO had organised public awareness campaigns in 20 schools and distributed 2,800 packages of menstrual products.

Justice Minister Albulena Haxhiu told the conference: “Being free means having autonomy over your body, and in Kosovo we have many cases in which others decide for women and girls. We must have a daily commitment that every woman in Kosovo can decide about their bodies”.

NGO Qika also distributed free menstrual products in the capital, Pristina, saying on Facebook that its aim is “a world in which every woman has the opportunity to manage her period safely, hygienically and without shame. We believe that this is possible and necessary for gender equality and social justice.”

Source @Prishtina Insight: Read more : Kosovo Kosovo News