Sri Lanka cuts tax on female hygiene products

Many schoolgirls and women in Sri Lanka would stay home when menstruating because they couldn't afford sanitary products. PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO - Sri Lanka's government on Sunday cut taxes on female sanitary products in a bid to help women and girls unable to afford them because of the country's economic crisis.

Even before the downturn last year, many schoolgirls and women in Sri Lanka, like in other poor countries, would stay home when menstruating because they could not afford sanitary products.

A study this year by policy advocacy group Advocata said "period poverty" - being unable to afford sanitary products - among Sri Lanka's 5.3 million women of reproductive age was about 50 per cent.

Campaigners believe the situation has worsened, with Sri Lanka facing severe shortages of essential goods and inflation rates in excess of 70 per cent.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe's office said on Sunday that customs duties, airport levies and other local taxes on raw materials imported to make female hygiene products were waived with immediate effect.

Imported pads and tampons will also cost 20 per cent less due to a reduction in import duties, Mr Wickremesinghe's office said in a statement.

The tax cut was to "make hygiene products more affordable in view of ensuring hygiene among women and school girls", the statement said.

Months of protests over economic hardships led to the resignation of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July.

The country defaulted on its US$51 billion (S$73 billion) foreign debt in April and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure a US$2.9 billion bailout.

The new government of Mr Wickremesinghe on Sunday began implementing a new turnover tax of 2.5 per cent on all goods and services in a bid to raise state revenue.

However, the government marginally reduced the price of petrol in line with global prices, but kept the price of diesel, commonly used in public transport, unchanged. AFP

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