Flemish opposition parties Groen and sp.a have called on the government to make sanitary products for girls available for free in schools.
Campaigners have long worked for so-called ‘period products’ – essentially tampons and sanitary napkins – to be sold free of VAT as essential products, or even to be provided free of charge.
Recently, the Scottish government said period products would from now on be free to all.
Inspired by the world premiere decision, the two parties in Flanders are now calling for a compromise measure: provide period products to girls under 18 through their schools.
“It is estimated that 45% of Flemish students who struggle to make ends meet at home sometimes do not have the money for sanitary towels and tampons,” said member of parliament Celia Groothedde (Groen). “This illustrates how badly our poverty policy is failing.”
Her resolution has been submitted with the support of Maxim Veys (sp.a).
Groothedde called on Flemish welfare minister Wouter Beke (CD&V) to take the issue seriously.
“Having no money for sanitary towels or tampons is a hidden form of poverty in Flanders,” she said. “This is accompanied by double shame: for the lack of money and the taboo surrounding menstruation. In addition, I find it particularly distressing that students miss school days because they have their period,” she said.
To avoid the stigma of poverty, the measure should not be dealt with by the social aid agencies, but better by the schools, Veys said.
“This doesn’t require expensive vending machines, Groothedde agreed. The products could be simply offered discreetly in the toilets.
“After all, we do not expect our students to pay for toilet paper. In order to avoid a policy that differs between municipalities or school networks, it is important that it happens at the level of the Flemish community. If the entire Flemish community participates and receives money for this, every girl at school will be treated equally,” she said.
The Brussels Times