Spain: Government lowers VAT on intimate hygiene products – Politics


Spain has a big, long unrecognized problem: menstrual poverty. Surveys show that more than 40 percent of women in the country cannot choose the hygiene product they want because it is too expensive for them. “These data are depressing”, says the Spanish Minister for Gender Equality, Irene Montero. Combating menstrual poverty is therefore a “duty to protect the health of all women”.

Montero supports a demand from the Spanish women’s movement: that menstruating people should not have to pay VAT on tampons, pads and menstrual cups. On Thursday she was able to look forward to at least a partial success: the Spanish government announced that hygiene products should receive a reduced VAT rate of four instead of the current ten percent.

Condoms and non-medical contraceptives should also fall under the reduced tax rate, while diapers for children and incontinence products for seniors are exempt from the VAT reduction. It is to be adopted with the state budget for the coming year.

It’s the next move from Montero’s ministry that puts the country at the forefront of feminist domestic politics. For a long time, Spain had the reputation of being an arch-Catholic and conservative macho country. However, thanks to its gender equality policy, Spain is now considered one of the most progressive countries in Europe in this regard. Also because the party from the Social Democratic Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (PSOE) has now been defined as explicitly feminist. “We will not stop until we have a society with equality, justice and without macho violence,” promises Sanchez.

Feminist Intentions of the Sánchez Cabinet

In recent months, Spain’s left-wing governing coalition of PSOE and Unidas Podemos has passed several draft laws that have attracted a great deal of attention in Europe: the new law on “women’s reproductive health and sexual rights” makes Spain the first European country to give menstrual problems as an explicit reason be granted for sick leave. And young women from the age of 16 should in future be able to have an abortion without needing parental consent.

Also in May, Spain took an important step towards tightening sexual offenses with the “Yes means yes” law. In the future, sexual acts will only be permitted if all persons involved have expressly consented to them. Accordingly, “sex without clear consent” is defined by Spanish courts as rape. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s party also wants to pass a law to abolish prostitution before the end of this legislative period. In future, it will not be the offering but the acquisition of sexual services that will be punishable in Spain.

While Spain’s left-wing governing coalition has made equality policies one of its central themes, the recent advances are not solely due to the feminist intentions of the Sánchez cabinet. Instead, it is the reaction to a very active women’s movement: for years, it has brought millions of supporters onto the streets on International Women’s Day.

Your commitment to end the machismo, in which men feel superior to women, also has historical reasons. Until 1975, women were not allowed to work or open their own bank accounts without their husbands’ permission. Only with the end of the Franco dictatorship were women’s rights gradually strengthened in Spain. In 1978 women were given equal rights to men under the constitution, in 1981 Spain introduced the possibility of divorce and in 1988 the PSOE decided on a women’s quota of 25 percent.

The cornerstone of Spain’s gender equality policy was laid almost two decades ago. In 2004, a law against gender-based violence was passed in the country, with which women should be better protected against abuse by their partners. For more than ten years now, “VioGén” has been a nationwide program in Spain that uses a questionnaire to determine a person’s individual risk situation. Appropriate protective measures are then imposed based on the responses. And in general, the attention to gender-specific violence is greater than in Germany. It’s a regular topic on the evening news, the whole country takes note of it – and it’s not dismissed as a “relationship drama”.



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