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Women groups lament continued taxation of sanitary products

Women organisations have called on the government to fully scrap import duty on sanitary wear in order to end period poverty.

Period poverty refers to having a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) only suspended the duty on tampons, sanitary towels/pads and napkins.

Products which include moon cups, underwear and sanitary soap are not exempted.

In an interview with CITE, Sanitary Aid Zimbabwe Director Theresa Nyava said the government needs to understand that period poverty in the country cannot end through piecemeal measures as there is need to address the situation holistically

“Government seems to think that by only scrapping the duty of imported sanitary towels and tampons, it has provided a cushion to menstruating women and girls. Yet other sanitary wear products such as menstrual cups and panty liners are still attracting duty; with other menstrual products such as underwear also attracting duty,” said Nyava.

“When we are talking about period poverty, we are not just talking about sanitary pads. We are talking about the inability by girls and women to access adequate menstrual products, a conducive environment and dignified treatment in order for them to manage their periods in a manner that fosters human and sustainable development”.

Nyava said the removal of duty and VAT on sanitary pads and tampons did not achieve the intended goal of reducing prices of sanitary wear, as prices actually went up, condemning more and more women and girls to unsanitary means.

“Many menstrual necessities such as underwear, soap, water, female-friendly toilets, pain relievers, and an environment that is free from period shaming cannot be accessed by many women and girls and the situation is worsening as inflation continues to rise. Yet the government thinks that it can provide cushion by handpicking a couple of sanitary products and scrapping duty on them.”

Emthonjeni Women`s Forum also implored the government to remove the tax on all sanitary products. .

“We urge the government to compel ZIMRA to remove the tax on sanitary wear. ZIMRA works on written instruction, in the form of a statutory instrument,” said Emthonjeni`s programmes manager Mellisa Ndlovu.

She also lobbied the government to subsidise local companies that produce sanitary wear so that it is affordable to all and alternatively offer free sanitary wear to school girls.

Outspoken Member of Parliament Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga raised the issue in Parliament , Tuesday, saying Parliament is ineffective if it cannot implement issues that were approved.

“We passed the whole issue of sanitary wear and the taxation in this House. I specifically asked the Minister to indicate that we are not going to have a situation where particular sanitary wear will not be imported in this country.

“As I speak right now, ZIMRA is still charging taxation on sanitary wear, particularly for the menstrual cups and for the pants at 50% for that importation.

“I think that basically makes this House a nullity because if we sit here, we approve things and the Minister says it is going to be done, yet those that are supposed to implement it are doing exactly the opposite,” said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

Sanitary wear is expensive in Zimbabwe, with a pack of ten pads costing $4, which in most cases is not affordable.

 

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