Rwanda scraps tax on sanitary pads to aid poor girls

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Rwanda announced Wednesday it was scrapping an 18 percent value-added tax on sanitary pads to make them cheaper for girls who are often forced to skip school during their periods.

The country becomes the latest to drop the controversial tax which has increasingly infuriated women around the globe who argue tampons and pads are basic necessities and should not be subject to taxes.

“The Government of Rwanda has added Sanitary Pads to a list of goods that are VAT exempted in a bid to ease their affordability,” the ministry of gender and family promotion announced on its website and on Twitter Wednesday.

The move came after fierce lobbying from feminist groups and NGOs urging the government to act to reduce the price of sanitary pads in the country.

“This is a step in the right direction but not the ultimate solution. It is a shame that girls have to drop out of school just because of a biological process, so it is a good step what government is trying to do,” Annette Mukiga, a feminist activist in Rwanda told AFP.

“Our target is to make sure that sanitary pads are free, not just cheap but free in all schools, so that girls do not have to worry about this challenge anymore.”

In 2017 a study conduction by the education ministry showed that girls aged 16 and above were eight percent more likely to drop out of school than boys, especially in rural areas.

The report cited lack of access to sanitary pads during menstruation as one of the reasons for this.

Kenya is credited with being the first country to abolish taxes on menstrual products in 2005, and in recent years many have followed suit.

However Tanzania in June decided to re-introduce the tax after having done away with it in 2018, arguing it was counterproductive as retailers had not lowered their prices.