FPA hosts policy discussion “Axe the Period Tax” to Raise Awareness on Period Poverty and Menstrual Hygiene | The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka

FPA hosts policy discussion “Axe the Period Tax” to Raise Awareness on Period Poverty and Menstrual Hygiene

The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka hosted a successful policy discussion named “Axe the Period Tax” at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) on March 05, 2024, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event was focused on pushing for policy reforms to remove all taxes on sanitary products, thereby making them more accessible and affordable to menstruators in the country. 

Period poverty is an issue that affects over half of the country’s population but often goes unnoticed in policy discussions. Sri Lanka’s period poverty rate is 50% which translates to 50% of households with women of menstruating age not spending any amount of money on sanitary napkins. Although recent research is lacking, the aftermath of the economic crisis is expected to have exacerbated this issue significantly. Period poverty poses a range of challenges, from physical and mental health issues to school absenteeism, gender-based violence, and social isolation. 

Menstruation is not a choice but a biological reality, which makes menstrual hygiene products necessities. Taxation on these essentials makes them unaffordable for many, particularly low-income families. Therefore, access to menstrual hygiene products is an essential human need that must be addressed.

The event commenced with an overview of the existing taxes related to period products in Sri Lanka by the Advocata Institute. It underscored that with the introduction of the new VAT amendment in late 2023, previously exempted sanitary napkins were no longer exempted, and at present, the tax rate is at 51.07%. This oversight suggests a lack of coordination and understanding among those responsible for drafting the new act on a critical policy contributing to women’s well-being which raises concerns about the government's ability to effectively implement and sustain policy changes, and the lack of mechanisms to hold the government accountable for abrupt policy shifts. 

In 2021, a packet of sanitary napkins containing 10 pieces was priced at LKR 140.6 Presently, the same product costs LKR 270, marking a staggering increase of 92%. This substantial price increase sheds light on the exacerbation of period poverty. 

Following the presentation, a panel discussion was held with three panellists: Member of Parliament Dr. Harsha De Silva, Dr. Ranjith Batuwanthudawe - Director of the Health Promotion Bureau of the Ministry of Health and Sarah Soysa - National Programme Analyst, UNFPA. The discussion was moderated by Iromi Perera, Director - Colombo Urban Lab. 

Addressing the event, MP Dr. Harsha de Silva underscored the importance of complete removal of period taxes as the tax revenue generated from taxes on period products is only 0.0002%. He further emphasized the options the government is exploring to provide free menstrual pads to school girls. 

Sarah Soysa mentioned the need to take into consideration the impact period poverty has on the country’s labour force to push for complete removal of period taxes.

Dr. Ranjith highlighted the need for more ministries other than the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to get involved in the discussions pertaining to menstruation and period poverty.  He further emphasized the need for more data to use for policy changes and the need for more involvement from civil society.

Following the successful completion of the event, FPASL is committed to continuing to raise awareness about period poverty and working to ensure that everyone has access to the menstrual hygiene products and education they need. 

Click to view the panel discussion: https://bit.ly/437rV6g
Click to view the presentation of an overview of the existing taxes related to period products: https://bit.ly/3ToZXzN
To read the policy brief:  https://bit.ly/4amu5l9

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