Taxation of Sanitary Pads in Ghana: A Burden on Women’s Health and Economic Well-being
In the world of taxation, goods are often categorized as either “essential” or “luxury.” Essential items, such as condoms and toilet paper, typically remain untaxed due to their critical nature. However, sanitary pads, a necessity for millions of women, find themselves unjustly classified as luxury items. This classification is not only outdated but also raises questions about gender equality and social justice.
The government of Ghana currently imposes a 20% luxury tax along with an additional 12.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on sanitary pads. This double taxation on a product that women need for a natural biological process over which they have no control is both unjust and morally questionable. The consequences of this taxation extend far beyond the financial burden it places on women.
Impact on Women’s Lives: Socio-economic Struggles
The impact of these taxes on sanitary pads reaches into the lives of women and girls across Ghana, particularly in rural communities. The consequences are multi-faceted, affecting health, socio-economic status, and even psychological well-being.
Inaccessibility to affordable sanitary pads can lead to severe health problems for women and girls. Substituting these products with unsanitary alternatives can result in infections and other health issues, potentially leading to long-term complications.
The high cost of sanitary pads forces many low-income households to make difficult choices. Families are often confronted with the painful decision of allocating scarce resources to purchase pads or addressing competing needs like food and education. Tragically, this dilemma can lead to girls missing school, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.
Grassroots Activism: “Don’t Tax My Period” and Psychological Stress
The psychological toll of period poverty should not be underestimated. The stress and shame associated with being unable to afford basic menstrual hygiene products can impact self-esteem and mental well-being, further exacerbating the issue.
In response to the pervasive issue of period poverty in Ghana, passionate activists have taken to the streets to advocate for change. On June 22, the “Don’t Tax My Period” parade and placard march swept through the streets of Accra. This mobilization, organized by the Women’s Wing of the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG) in collaboration with NGOs Yebetumi and Obaasima, aimed to draw attention to the heavy taxation of menstrual hygiene products.
The Voice of Advocacy: Mr. Joseph Asante
One prominent advocate for the reduction of taxes on sanitary pads is Mr. Joseph Asante, affectionately known as “Sika Wo Bush.” He has been a vocal proponent of lowering these taxes due to their severe implications on girls and women in deprived areas. According to Mr. Asante, more than 10,000 girls in Ghana’s rural areas skip school because they cannot afford sanitary pads and other necessary products, all due to the high taxes imposed by the government. He passionately pleads with the Ghanaian government to reduce these taxes, making these vital products affordable for all.
Understanding Period Poverty: The GRA’s Classification and Taxation
Period poverty is not limited to Ghana; it is a global issue affecting approximately a quarter of the world’s population. Inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products leads to financial hardships and increased economic vulnerability for menstruating individuals. The financial burden imposed by the high cost of these supplies can have lasting effects on one’s quality of life.
The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) plays a significant role in this issue by classifying menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads and tampons as “Finished Goods.” Consequently, they are subjected to a 20% import tax. Conversely, items classified as “Essential Social Goods” are taxed at a zero rate. This distinction, while administrative in nature, has profound real-world consequences.
Notably, in addition to import taxes, these essential products carry an additional Value Added Tax (VAT) ranging from 12.5% to 15%. The cumulative effect of these taxes is substantial and burdensome for women across the country.
A Call for Change
The taxation of sanitary pads in Ghana, deemed essential by most, remains a pressing issue that deserves urgent attention. It is not only a matter of economic policy but also one of social justice and gender equality. As activists and advocates like Mr. Joseph Asante passionately plead for change, it is essential for the government to revisit the classification and taxation of these products.
Ultimately, addressing this issue goes beyond economics; it is about safeguarding the health, dignity, and future of women and girls in Ghana. The reduction or elimination of taxes on sanitary pads is a crucial step toward achieving equality, justice, and a brighter future for all. In the face of a challenging economic climate, this change would signify a profound commitment to the well-being of half the population and a more equitable society.
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