Civil society group says sanitary napkin tax bleeding women dry

Thursday, 20 September 2018 02:23 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Ruwandi Gamage

In a bid to make sanitary napkins more affordable for low-income women, the Apè Sri Lanka National Movement  Tuesday called on the Government to reduce the “unfair tax” on an essential item for women.  

Ape Sri Lanka National Movement President Vimukthi Dushantha questioned the motives behind the Government imposing such a high tax, which he said was more than 100% the cost of production, on an essential item in a country where 52% of the population was female.

“The Government needs to realise that sanitary pads are not a luxury item but an essential one. Women represent 52% of our population and this is an everyday essential hygiene item for them,” he said.

The cheapest pack of 16-piece sanitary napkin pack sells at Rs. 260, and with a production cost of Rs. 100, the lion share of the price comprises taxes,” claimed Dushantha.

“The Government charges Rs. 160 for a sanitary pad pack that only costs Rs. 100 to produce. We are not asking for a tax elimination. We request a tax reduction. It’s unacceptable to charge such a high tax on an everyday essential item,” he said.

Highlighting the decision taken by neighbouring India to remove taxes on sanitary napkins, the movement called on the Sri Lankan Government to follow this example to make the essential hygiene product more affordable for rural and low-income communities.

“Reusing cloth during menstruation, a common practice among rural and low-income women, is advised against by health professionals. But making sanitary napkins accessible for rural communities cannot be achieved unless the Government decides on tax eliminations and makes it more affordable for low-income women,” said the Ape Sri Lanka National Movement President.

Highlighting that sanitary napkins were not only used during menstruation but also during other health complications, including post-surgery recovery, Women’s Rights Activist and teacher Diana K. Hettiarachchi stressed the need to make the product more accessible to women at all levels of society.

“During a menstrual cycle, a woman needs at least five sanitary pad napkins a day, as it is advised by health professionals to use one napkin only for maximum of five hours. Not only India, we should take a lesson from Scotland’s six-month project where they supplied sanitary napkins to poverty-stricken communities and battled against period poverty,” said Hettiarachchi.

Following research findings that one in four respondents at school, college or university in Scotland struggled to access sanitary products, the Scottish Government decided to make sanitary products available free for all of its 395,000 pupils and students. Scotland is the first country in the world to “banish the scourge of period poverty” when girls and women struggle to pay for basic sanitary products on a monthly basis, significantly affecting their hygiene, health and wellbeing.