Lansdowne organisation spearheads efforts to remove tax on sanitary pads

Michelle Jansen, 50, from Mannenberg.

Islamic Relief South Africa is calling for the tax on sanitary pads to be removed. The organisation, based in Lansdowne, says that women already cannot afford to pay for sanitary pads and that tax is an added burden.

Fazlin Fransman, head of funding and communication at Islamic Relief, said most women in rural areas don’t have access to sanitary pads.

“While most women use cloth, others are forced to use leaves and newspapers which is not hygienic. From the start, the aim was to call for free sanitary pads but we know that it won’t happen in the near future so in the interim we are calling for the exemption of tax,” said Ms Fransman.

With a packet of quality sanitary pads costing close to R30, the Athlone News asked residents how they felt about the matter. We asked the three questions – should sanitary pads be free in South Africa? Should tax be charged on sanitary pads? And should they be freely available in public spaces such as toilets, libraries, clinics, and hospitals as condoms are?

Michelle Jansen, 50, from Manenberg, said sanitary pads must be free, particularly for young girls at school.

“It must be free for the children because they get their period at school and get sent home. Even when the gun fights are on they send the children home. What if that child gets harmed while she went home to clean herself and get a pad. They should give the children pads for free at school. They shouldn’t charge tax because if the children’s mothers give them pocket money, they have to buy pads from that money and their other toiletries. I don’t think it’s right,” said Ms Jansen.

Jamiela Hattas, 70, from Athlone, also believed pads should be free because it was a necessity for women.

“Women need pads every month. They cannot charge us tax on it, it is a necessity. It is so expensive and that’s why they are always asking people to donate pads,” said Ms Hattas.

Gale Petersen, 49, from Crawford, said while she also believedsanitary pads should be free, she didn’t think they should be placed in public bathrooms because it would be “unhygienic”.

“Some mothers are unemployed and have disabilities. They have to buy pads as well, so pads must be free. The government shouldn’t charge us tax on pads, things are already so expensive. Condoms are put in public bathrooms but I don’t trust it because it is free and it might have germs on it. Pads shouldn’t be free in the bathrooms either because it is unhygienic,” said Ms Petersen.

Nubewiya Williams, 57, from Athlone, said many youth are unemployed and cannot afford to buy sanitary pads.

“The government shouldn’t charge us tax on pads. It is already charged on all the food we buy. We go in to the shops with R100 and don’t even get change anymore. Nowadays the people can’t even afford to buy food. They are hungry and must beg for food. Pads should be free just like condoms are, especially for the youngsters who can’t afford it,” said Ms Williams.

Faldiela Jacobs, 56, from Silvertown, said sanitary pads should definitely be free because they were a necessity. She said in a house of two or three women the cost could be very high. “If they can give condoms for free, why can’t they give pads for free? Menstruation happens monthly, so you need pads,” said Ms Jacobs.

Ms Fransman is currently busy drafting a submission to the Portfolio Committee on Women. In the submission, she sketches the scenario of women in rural areas using unhygienic items instead of pads and states that it is a discriminatory to charge tax on sanitary pads which are a necessity for women. She will be submitting it later this week.

She said while the organisation only calls for the exemption of tax for now, they would also like to call for the placement of sanitary pads in public spaces, including libraries, schools, public toilets and clinics.

“We are also addressing it to the Department of Health because they are the ones who put condoms in public spaces so they should provide sanitary pads as well,” she said.

“We know that sanitary pads belong to private companies and we understand the ripple effect that free pads will have on their businesses, but perhaps we can find a way for them to come to the party as well,” she said.