‘I bleed, the state wins’: Paris tampon tax protest

Men and women - some dressed as giant vaginas - gathered in Paris on Wednesday to protest against a French tax on tampons, as anger grows among women worldwide over high taxation of the essential items.

'I bleed, the state wins': Paris tampon tax protest
Photo: AFP

Protesters joined the rally in central Paris, brandishing colourful flags and banners reading: “No tax on my uterus,” “Each time I bleed, the State wins,” and “let us bleed without over-charging us”.

One feminist group at the protest hung pairs of women's underwear soiled with fake menstrual blood from a clothes line.

“What is not right is that at a time when women are underpaid, when they are more likely to be unemployed, when they are paid less than men, each month, they have to pay a tax on their uterus: the tampon tax,” Ophelie Latil, who founded the French feminist collective Georgette Sand, told AFP.

Georgette Sand called for the protest after France's National Assembly last month rejected an amendment to reduce the VAT on tampons and other feminine sanitary products to 5.5 percent from the current rate of 20 percent.

The amendment was rejected after the government said changing the tax would cost €55 million ($60 million).

Georgette Sand countered by saying that such a tax amounted to overcharging women for what is a “basic need”, estimating a woman will spend €1,500 ($1,600) in her lifetime on sanitary products.

The Senate is expected to discuss a new amendment on the issue on November 19.

Worldwide anger

The protest is the latest in a growing international movement of anger against what has become known as the “tampon tax”.

Online petitions have collected hundreds of thousands of signatures in Britain, France, Australia and elsewhere calling for a tax reduction on feminine hygiene products. Canada has already scrapped the tax.

In Britain a government decision a few weeks ago not to scrap the five percent tax on sanitary products, with lawmakers arguing they were a “non-essential, luxury” item, sparked an uproar on social media.

Women posted pictures of tampons in champagne glasses and jewellery boxes under the #tampontax hashtag on Twitter and Facebook, while men also joined the chorus of disapproval.

In France, the #laissermoisaigner (let me bleed) and #taxetampon have been trending on Twitter.

Earlier this month another French protest called “Culotte Gate” (panty gate) saw women post hundreds of panties stained with fake blood to French President Francois Hollande and other members of government.

At the French protest, Axel Cassin, who was dressed in a Santa Claus suit and holding a sign that said “less taxes in our chimneys”, said men should support women in their fight.

He highlighted one French lawmaker's argument that equated women's sanitary products with men's shaving creams.

“A man can choose to shave or not to shave,” Cassin said. “A woman on the other hand cannot choose whether or not to have her period.”

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Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.