Throughout the summer, groups of women demonstrate in Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu on balmy afternoons almost every day. Almost all of them have their pants painted brilliant crimson with red paint and are lying down on the ground. “Don’t impose a tax on my period,” “think more than blood money,” and “period is taxing in and of itself” are among the signs held by the women and a few males. They are protesting the increase in the country’s sanitary pad tax.
The government declared that it would execute the bill after the House of Representatives adopted a new bill to amend the annual Nepal budget plan for 2021/22. The price of sanitary pads in the market jumped after the budget was approved, causing a stir on social media and across the country.
They argue that sanitary pads should not be considered luxury items and have asked for a tax credit to help them further their argument. On the other side, businesses and importers of the product argue that the price increase is due to a government tax increase. On the other side, the administration argues that no taxes have been increased.
Was the tax hiked by the government that increased the price?
Since the fiscal year 2012-13, the government has imposed a 15% customs levy on sanitary pads, according to the Ministry of Finance. The raw materials used to create them are subject to a ten percent tax in Nepal. However, the government cut it to 5% in the budget decree passed on May 29 in order to encourage more companies to make sanitary pads in Nepal rather than import them.
Despite assertions from businesses to the contrary, the Ministry of Finance states that there has been no increase in any form of tax on sanitary pads. On September 24, the ministry released a statement claiming that some people were spreading fake information and criticising the administration without doing enough study.
So, who is to blame in this case?
Regardless, the administration has made no public announcements about the price hike.
Following the passage of the new budget, manufacturers of sanitary pads imported from India, China, and Taiwan increased their prices. A packet’s price has risen by Rs 10 per packet.
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Supplies, as well as the Department of Commerce, Supplies, and Consumer Protection, which should be monitoring the situation and taking appropriate action against importers and firms, have yet to respond. These people are oblivious to the situation.
What is the total number of sanitary pads imported into the country?
Nepal imports a large number of sanitary pads. According to the Department of Customs, Nepal imported 1.73 million kg of sanitary pads worth Rs 1.05. billion in fiscal year 2020/21. As a result, the government pocketed more than Rs 300 million in taxes.
24.5 million sanitary pads were imported at a cost of Rs 239 million two months into the current fiscal year (2021/22), for a total of Rs 239 million. The government has already collected Rs 59.6 million in taxes this year, according to the Department of Customs.
So, what do the activists aim to accomplish?
Despite the fact that the government has not modified the sanitary pad tax rate, the product is still subject to a 13 percent value-added tax (VAT). Pads manufactured in Nepal and imported from other countries are subject to this tax.
This is in contrast to the government’s National Dignified Menstruation Policy, which aims to make menstrual products affordable and accessible to everyone. The government of Nepal wants to turn the product from a luxury to a necessity, and the policy paves the way for more Nepali businesses to produce it in the country. In addition, the proposal discusses tax advantages and grants for businesses that make goods in Nepal.
Radha Paudel, a campaigner, argues that if the government truly wants to be progressive, it should abolish the 13% value-added tax (VAT).
The problem of dignified menstruation, according to Paudel, must be handled from a variety of perspectives. Reusable pads, disposable pads, menstrual cups, and tampons, she argues, should be readily provided at a low cost to all women everywhere.
“Because imported sanitary pads are derived from petroleum, they are not very environmentally friendly.” The government, according to Paudel, should also ensure that they are gradually phased out and that pads made in the country are promoted instead.