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Rwanda scraps tax on sanitary pads as Tanzania reinstates it

Rwanda has followed in the footsteps of South Africa scrapping the 18% Value Added Tax on sanitary pads. African countries are taking the step in order to combat period poverty especially for young girls and vulnerable women.

Rwandan girls and women will be able to purchase sanitary pads for much lower than the current market price. The country has taken steps to scrap the 18% value added tax placed on sanitary pads similar to luxury goods. A pack of ten pads currently goes for around 1,000 Rwandan Francs (about $1) which is above the reach of many young girls and vulnerable women.

The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion tweeted the new development: “Moving to the right direction, from now onwards, the Government of Rwanda has added Sanitary Pads to a list of goods that are VAT exempted in a bid to ease their affordability.”

Activists have been putting concerted effort towards governments scrapping the tax on this basic necessity.

Annette Mukiga, a feminist activist in Rwanda told AFP that, “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.”

“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.”

Tanzania reinstates tax

It would appear that scraping the sanitary pad tax is only part of a sustainable structure. After doing away with the VAT on sanitary pads last year Tanzania has reinstated it. The country claims that scrapping the tax has not helped lower consumer prices in the domestic market and was therefore counterproductive.

Read: South Africa scraps Value-Added Tax on Sanitary pads

Deputy Finance Minister Ashatu Kijaji told parliament while explaining the controversial reinstatement of the VAT in the 2019/2020 budget “Instead of the anticipated outcome, domestic factories reduced production due to the tax factor, resulting in job losses.”

“We will also extend a similar benefit to existing producers from July 1 this year through to 2021,” she added.

The opposition however criticized the government’s move, saying indicative prices should have been introduced to foil unscrupulous traders.

Opposition politician Zitto Kabwe told the EastAfrican, “Menstruation is a biological issue and bringing back VAT is an injustice to women, especially low-income earners.”

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