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Water & Sanitation

South Africa Finally Declared Menstrual Products Tax-Free


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Taxing menstrual products makes them less affordable and accessible, especially for low-income consumers. Many young girls end up missing school because they cannot afford to manage their periods. South Africa’s decision to lift the tax on sanitary pads will make it possible for more young girls receive an education, among other benefits. You can join us in taking action on this issue here.

Menstrual products just got a lot more affordable for South African women and girls.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced on Wednesday that consumers will stop paying the value added tax (VAT) of 15% on sanitary pads in the country, starting in April 2019, the Sunday Times reports. Free sanitary pads will also be distributed in public schools. 

Take Action: Prioritizing Menstrual Hygiene Management is Key to Ensuring Girls Can Stay in School

The cost of menstrual products is a huge burden for low-income women, ultimately costing them at least R600 (around $111 USD) a year, according to the Sunday Times. Young girls, as many as 30%, miss school because they can’t afford menstrual products. 

"Zero-rating these products targets low-income households and restores the dignity of our people," Mboweni said Wednesday while presenting his medium term budget policy. 

Mboweni also announced that white bread flour and cake flour will be tax-free starting in April, too.

Read More: India Just Declared Tampons and Sanitary Napkins Tax-Free

Activists, female members of parliament, and academics have all been putting pressure on the government to make sanitary pads more affordable. In early October, students rallied using the hashtag #BecauseWeBleed to urge the government to abolish the tax.

South Africa isn’t the only country affected by the tampon tax, which falls under a form of gender-based discrimination often known as the “pink tax,” named for the frequent marketing of the color pink toward women. 

There are still places around the world where the pink tax continues to hold women back. But Malaysia, India, and Australia all took steps to ditch the tax in the summer of 2018 alone, proving that, with Wednesday's announcement, South Africa is just the latest country showing signs of progress across the globe.