Law clinic asks for tampon tax to fall

The Stellenbosch University (SU) Law Clinic has made a written submission to National Treasury to include feminine hygiene products on the list of zero-rated Value Added Tax (VAT) items.

This comes shortly after an announcement by National Treasury that it will review the current list of VAT-free items. Treasury also called for public submissions for the expansion of the current list of zero-rated VAT items.

Monja Posthumus-Meyjes, an attorney at the SU Law Clinic, and two candidate attorneys, Danielle Louw and Erika Wright, conducted research on the VAT charged on feminine hygiene products (also known as tampon tax), in collaboration with Dr Lize Mills and Silke de Lange from the SU’s Faculty of Law.

Their research also focused on the impact high prices of feminine products have on women who can’t afford it.

“The research indicates that the lack of access to feminine hygiene products, primarily as a result of the high prices of these products, is an enormous problem that confronts poor, vulnerable and marginalised women and girls in South Africa.

Because they can’t afford this, they are forced to turn to alternative options that are mostly unhygienic and pose serious health risks,” Ms Posthumus-Meyjes said.

The issue of tampon tax has come under the spotlight recently after MPs in parliament insisted that that feminine hygiene products should be exempted of VAT or even be freely available.

In 2004, Kenya became the first country in the world to abolish tampon tax. The Mauritian government has similarly stopped adding VAT to sanitary pads and tampons in 2017.

“The fact that many girls and women cannot afford proper sanitary hygiene products has further serious consequences in other aspects of their lives. About 30% of female pupils in South African schools do not attend school when they menstruate as they cannot afford sanitary hygiene products. This means that a girl could effectively lose about 90 days of schooling a year as a direct result of issues relating to menstruation,” said Ms Posthumus-Meyjes.