TAMPONS are now no longer a “luxury good” in France. Following months of outrage and protests in the country, France’s National Assembly last week ruled in favour of reducing the country’s tax on tampons and sanitary pads from 20 to 5.5%.
The outrage is understandable, after all, half the world’s population needs to use them for a week each month, every month for about 30 years. Critics say that for women to pay the government a percentage on top of paying for those products is an unfair burden on their wallets.
In the US there is a 4-9% tampon tax, in the UK it stands at 5% while in Australia it stands at 10%. Due to the public protests in France, campaigns have happened all over the world demanding the removal of the tax on tampons and sanitary towels. But in Africa it has been a factor that many governments have already considered and abolished—a key win for the continent when looking at gender equality.
In many African countries, the price of a pack of pads isn’t just a burden on a wallet, so governments have had to step up. According to Unicef, one out of 10 African schoolgirls skips school or drops out of school entirely due to a lack of menstrual products and poor access to proper sanitation.
As a result, a few countries have abolished taxes on the products.
The governments of Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles, have all exempted sanitary towels from the national value-added tax (VAT).
For example, bear in mind that a pack of sanitary towels in Kenya starts at 50 shillings ($0.5) - and going by the World Bank average per capita income for the country that earnings are on average $3 a day, it becomes a massive financial burden for many women in the country.
The cost of having a period is so high for so many girls that some will improvise with whatever they have – rags, old towels, leaves, grass – and the results are life changing.
A study at a school in Uganda found that half of the girl pupils missed 1-3 school days a month, in Ghana girls miss up to 5 days a month, attributed to inadequate sanitation facilities and the lack of sanitary products at school.