Nica Richards

By Nica Richards


Supermarket chain introduces VAT-free sanitary pads

Shoprite has taken action to relieve financial strain by drastically reducing the price of Ultrex pads.

Shoprite supermarket chains throughout South Africa have responded to the current financial woes facing citizens. Their solution to one of many groups of people that are now more disadvantaged than before is to drastically reduce the price of Ultrex sanitary pads.

The retailer released a statement last week explaining that this is not only a short-term solution, “but a commitment by Shoprite to provide its customers with greater access to affordable basic hygiene products and necessities.”

Pads are distributed to schoolgirls. However, these girls cannot rely on initiatives alone to guarantee dignity and legitimate feminine hygiene products during their menstrual cycle.

All Ultrex range sanitary pads will now be retailing tax-free for R10.99, an amount that is, on average, 50 percent more affordable than other brands and deals.

Female hygiene products such as sanitary pads and tampons are one of many items suggested by a panel of experts appointed by the National Treasury to be VAT-free.

Other items include white bread and flour, school uniforms and nappies.

Baby formula is another product that was suggested to be tax free, but it was decided by the health department that South Africa should not be promoting this second-best form of infant nutrition with tax breaks, as reported by Fin24.

Pink Tax, or gender discriminatory pricing on products ranging from soap to razor blades is something that has been investigated by various panels. Women pay approximately 13% more for personal care items.

According to Money Matters, sanitary pads and tampons fall under this bracket because they are deemed ‘luxury items’ – something that every women will dispute.

To add fuel to this argument, women on average earn less than men, but are known to have significantly more expenses.

Cosmopolitan South Africa have launched a campaign to petition Pink Tax. Image: Bizcommunity

So, in the mean time, while Pink Tax is being proven, explored and possibly changed, Shoprite’s decision to make one brand of sanitary pads tax free is a positive start to help disadvantaged women retain their dignity during their menstrual cycles. This is especially important with girls who are still attending school, as their menstrual cycles often disrupt their school attendance.

In 2016, there were 2.6 million girls aged 9 to 20 in South Africa, and many of these miss weeks of school due to their periods.

In addition, Health24 reports that various fungal infections occur as a result of a lack of access to proper female hygiene products. Items such as rags and leaves are used instead of tampons or pads, and can have very detrimental health consequences.

The Equal Education (EE) conducted an audit in March and April in Gauteng this year, and it revealed that in 30% of the high schools audited, 40% had no access to either toilet paper or sanitary pads.

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