Galloping prices in Turkey have made even the most basic goods a luxury. More than 80% of Turks can no longer afford sanitary napkins and tampons, and more and more people are digging in garbage cans and collecting food from the ground, writes Elmaz Tolpku for Deutsche Welle.
Lingerie with red spots: it was picked up by female students during a demonstration in front of the Izmir Tax Service. “We don’t have money for sanitary napkins, we don’t even have money to eat twice a day,” they chanted.
How sanitary napkins and tampons have become a luxury
Students at Turkish universities have been protesting for months against dramatically rising prices for women’s hygiene products. They are demanding the abolition of 18% VAT on these products because they are not a luxury but a necessity. In fact, the state should distribute them even for free, the students insist.
Leylanur Mavili, a student in Ankara, complains that the money in her purse is losing its value every month. And her colleague Zeynep Kurt adds that from her £ 800 scholarship, £ 50 goes for sanitary napkins. She also explains something important: women’s hygiene products are obviously considered indecent, as they are sold only in certain places, and necessarily in black plastic bags.
The protest of female students against the prices of sanitary napkins illustrates a much bigger problem: the devaluation of the Turkish lira has led to an explosion at all prices, inflation in the country has reached unprecedented levels for the past 19 years. At the beginning of the year, the prices of gas and electricity were drastically increased – for households by 50%, and for companies even by over 100%.
Most people in Turkey are no longer able to cope with rising prices and, at best, have money only for basic foodstuffs. Queues are rolling in front of state-owned cheap bread outlets in Istanbul and Ankara. In the markets, more and more people, mostly adults, after the end of the working day dig in the garbage cans and collect from the ground fruits and vegetables that are edible. And in many supermarkets, even the most normal goods such as baby food, coffee or cheese are now electronically secured against theft. And if we go back to the women’s headbands, which have risen by more than 50%: according to a survey by an NGO, 82% of Turks can no longer afford to buy hygiene items.
“They use leaves in which they wrap clean soil”
Gynecologist Irmak Sarac claims that the situation is becoming unbearable, especially for seasonal workers. “We are learning that women are forced to use sheets in which they wrap clean soil,” the doctor said, and also called on the state to distribute sanitary napkins and tampons free of charge. In Turkey, however, it is very difficult to discuss such a proposal, as society does not talk about topics deemed obscene.
However, the protesting female students are not losing courage. “We are not to blame for the economic crisis. And we do not want to bear the consequences,” they chanted before the Izmir Tax Office. “Sanitary pads and tampons are not a luxury, so they are a basic necessity,” the young women repeated.