Tampons will no longer be taxed as luxury items, after landmark German vote

Activists Nanna-Josephine Roloff and Yasemin Kotra petitioned the German parliament to lower the tax on sanitary products.

Berlin (CNN)What do wine, cigarettes and tampons have in common? They're all classed as "luxury goods" in Germany and taxed at the highest possible rate.

The country has one of the higher tax rates on feminine hygiene products in the European Union, ranking 11th out of the 28 member states.
But that is set to change, following a landmark vote in the German parliament Thursday.
    The government, apparently swayed by a growing equal rights campaign, says the sales tax on sanitary products like tampons and pads will be reduced from next year.
    From January 1, 2020, the amount of tax on sanitary items will be cut from 19% (for luxury goods) to 7% (the rate for daily necessities).
    Green MP Lisa Paus tweeted that the move was a "great success" and "an important step toward a tax system that does not discriminate against women."
    Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told reporters at a press briefing last month: "Many women campaigned for this and now we're making it happen."

    'It's women who bear the costs'

    For equal rights campaigners Nanna-Josephine Roloff and Yasemin Kotra, it's a victory years in the making.
    Their online petition to the lower the tampon tax -- one of many presented to the German parliament on the topic -- has received almost 200,000 signatures. It "paved the way forward to change the law," Scholz told Roloff during a meeting earlier this year, according to Roloff.
    It's difficult to put a price on how much sanitary products will cost a woman over her lifetime. One report from London's City Hall last year estimated that a lifetime's worth of disposable menstrual products costs women in the British capital £2,280 ($2,945).
    And that's doesn't take into account all the associated costs like pain relief, replacement underwear, and sick days from work and school.
    "It is the women who bear these costs -- and periods are no luxury for women," Roloff told CNN.
    Instead, the tax is "systematic discrimination" against women and girls, the 28-year-old PR consultant from Hamburg added.
    "Products like salmon, caviar, truffles, hotel nights or taxi rides are taxed lower than female hygiene products," she said. "But how should women avoid their period?"
    Tweeting after parliament's vote, Roloff celebrated the win, writing: "We made it: Germany will stop taxing menstrual products by 2020. I am crying."