Period poverty upwards of 80 percent in Turkey – report

Eighty two percent of women in poverty in Turkey cannot access menstrual hygiene products, a study by support group Deep Poverty Network (DYA) found.

“Other women told us that their access to sanitary napkins was sporadic,” DYA Communications Coordinator Şeyma Duman told Anka News Agency on Sunday.

DYA spoke with 103 families living in poverty conditions.

Sanitary napkins, the most commonly used product in the country, saw a price hike of 51 percent between December 2020 and December 2021. The unit price of pads currently stands around 2 liras, according to Turkish Statistics Institute figures, up from the previous year’s 0.66 liras, Anka said.

Women doing seasonal agricultural work use leaves and dirt for absorption, gynaecologist Dr Irmak Saraç from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) told Anka.

“Looking into the market as a whole, we see that period products are too expensive. Under normal circumstances, these should be provided by the state,” Saraç said.

The value added tax (VAT) for period products is 18 percent in Turkey, on par with luxury goods. Other essential goods are either exempt from VAT or are taxed 8 percent.

“Luxury products are those consumed apart from necessity. Pads are a fundamental right and need for women, similar to food, shelter and livelihood,” main opposition Republican People’S Party Deputy Chairwoman for Gender Equality Seda Bozdağ Güzelkaya said, sharing photos from supermarkets showing recent price hikes.

A family with a mother and two daughters would have to spend at least 170 liras per month on period products, according to the Women and Children First Association.

“Imagine if the family has one minimum wage salary in income,” the advocacy group said.

Turkey’s minimum wage recently rose to 4,253.4 liras from 2,825.9 liras, while purchasing power has been on the decline due to rising inflation and the plummeting of the lira against the dollar.  

The poverty threshold in the country for a family of four stands at 10,119.8 liras ($729.3), more than double the increased minimum wage, a report by the Confederation of Public Servants Trade Unions (MEMUR-SEN) found.

“The cost of pads continues to rise each month but the money I can allocate remains the same,” university student Leylanur Mavili said. “I have to use the cheapest ones. We have completely stopped caring whether they are healthy. I use whichever one I can afford.”

Women in universities have started period support groups, Mavili said.

“I receive 800 liras ($60) as scholarship from the state, and I spend 50 liras on pads every month,” law student Zeynep Kurt said.

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