Colombo-based free market think tank Advocata yesterday recommended the government to remove the tax levied on women’s menstrual hygiene products, on the Menstrual Hygiene Day, which falls today.
Females consist of 52 percent of Sri Lanka’s total population, with approximately 4.2 million menstruating women.
However, for many Sri Lankan women, access to safe and affordable menstrual hygiene products has become a luxury.
A main contributor to the unaffordability of menstrual hygiene products in Sri Lanka is the taxes levied on the imported menstrual hygiene products.
Sanitary napkins and tampons are taxed under the HS code HS 96190010. The import tariff levied on these products is 52 percent and until September 2018, the tax on sanitary napkins was 101.2 percent.
The components of this structure were: General duty (30 percent) + VAT (15 percent) + PAL (7.5 percent) + NBT (2 percent) and CESS (30 percent or Rs.300/kg).
“The removal of this significant barrier to girls’ education, women’s health and labour force participation will create a wide-scale positive impact on closing Sri Lanka’s present gender gap and facilitate more inclusive economic growth,” Advocata noted.
In light of the continued unaffordability of menstrual hygiene products for women in Sri Lanka, the Advocata Institute proposes to the Finance Ministry to remove the PAL and General Duty components from the current taxation structure pertaining to the essential menstrual hygiene products in Sri Lanka, bringing the total tax levied on these products down to 8 percent.
If this were to be done, the Finance Ministry should declare the reduction in taxes through the means of an extraordinary gazette.
Taxes on sanitary napkins was a hot topic during the presidential elections last year, where the defeating United National Party presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa pledged to offer free sanitary napkins to all the women in Sri Lanka.