Periods are not a luxury

29 October 2018 | Opinion

Otis Finck [email protected]

I despised being sent to the shop to purchase sanitary pads on behalf of female family members as a youngster.

Those were extremely unbearable trips and became even more uncomfortable when I ran into friends while carrying such items.

Boys talk, and a suspicion of the purpose sanitary pads served, fueled this phobia.

I had this notion that menstruation was something dirty and women turned into monsters whenever they experienced this bloody phenomenon.

My view was completely changed in the biology class where I learned the true purpose of the occurrence. I discovered menstruation was an uncontrolled natural process and something women are meant to do.

During menstruation, girls in school often worry about staining their dress with menstrual blood and being humiliated by classmates, especially boys.

Qualitative research studies emphasize girls experience shame, embarrassment, and discomfort during menstruation because they lack access to affordable and preferred products, private and safe facilities, and education about menstruation and how to manage it.

Lately I’ve been made aware that the lack of sanitary supplies and the inability to afford it force girls to miss out on school and ultimately their education. A girl could effectively lose about 90 days of schooling a year as a direct result of issues relating to menstruation. This places her at a huge disadvantage because she’s effectively losing out on 30% of her education, every year.

The lack of access to feminine hygiene products, primarily as a result of the high prices of these products, is a problem that confronts poor, vulnerable and marginalised women and girls.

It is estimated that more than half of women and girls in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) use homemade materials as their primary or secondary method for managing their periods.

I therefore support calls that all sanitary pads and tampons should be tax-exempt to ensure lower prices and easier access to these essential products.

Kenya became the first nation in the world to end the tampon tax in 2004. The country also ended an import duty on sanitary pads in 2011 and this helped to reduce costs of such items significantly for low-income women and girls.

If they can, why can’t we?

In Namibia sanitary wear is taxed and value added tax (VAT) is charged on these items, as with other goods classified as luxury and/or non-essential goods. Several goods and services are exempt of VAT or zero-rated for tax, however, tampons, pads and other sanitary wear that women require are not included in this.

On the other hand, we are paying millions to produce condoms and provide these free of charge. Whether to have sex or not is a choice. Menstruation, however, is not.

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