Cosmpolitan launches a petition to end tampon tax

In this month’s South African edition of COSMOPOLITAN you can read an article I wrote that explores the cost of having a period in South Africa. Here’s a quick summary.

tampon tax, petition #tampontaxmustfall

Isn’t that crazy! We shouldn’t have to spend this much to bleed. In the article I also explore some SA pad and tampon brands, as well as some South African greener alternatives to tampons and pads, like period panties, and menstrual cups. Get their June 2018 edition to find out more.

COSMO has decided to launch a petition to end Tampon Tax in SA, and you can read more about that, below.


cosmo tampon tax
Illustration by Stacey Knipe


COSMOPOLITAN magazine has launched a petition to end tampon tax, calling on all women to join the campaign against period poverty in South Africa.

In its June issue, currently on newsstands, COSMOPOLITAN Deputy Editor Sarah Browning de-Villiers collaborated with feminist journalist Jen Thorpe to investigate the plight of tampon tax in South Africa. In the report, they argue that tampons and pads should not be subject to the same value added tax (VAT) that other ‘luxury items’ are. Basic items considered a necessity (such as brown bread and milk) aren’t taxed with VAT. They’re zero-rated. So why are women being taxed for having their period? And why are tampons and pads being classified by the government as ‘luxury, non-essential items’?

‘It seems illogical and sexist that women are forced to pay VAT to look after their menstrual hygiene. It begs the question, why are we being taxed for sanitary care that is a basic biological necessity? Not only has the recent VAT increase made these products even more expensive, it has also highlighted the thousands of girls who cannot afford them and are forced to use old rags and leaves – compromising their health, dignity and school attendance. It begs another question: if we can afford to give boys free condoms, why can’t we afford to give girls free tampons?’ – COSMOPOLITAN Editor Holly Meadows

In the 2016/17 financial year, there was an estimated R45-billion in irregular expenditure by government – enough to buy more than 205-million menstrual cups. Not being able to afford sanitary care affects school attendance. UNESCO estimated in 2016 that one in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses school during their menstrual cycle. In Africa, Kenya became the first country to scrap tampon tax in 2004, followed by Nigeria and Mauritius. It’s time for South Africa to end tampon tax and period poverty.

Lobby against parliament to:

1) Remove VAT From Sanitary Products, Especially Sanitary Pads And Tampons, Classifying Them As Basic Necessities

Tampons and sanitary pads are subject to the same value added tax (VAT) that other ‘luxury items’ are. This year, the budget speech announced that VAT went up to 15%, meaning that these so-called ‘luxury items’ became even more expensive on 1 April 2018. Basic items considered a necessity (such as brown bread and milk) aren’t taxed with VAT. These items are zero-rated. The question is, why are women taxed for sanitary products that are a basic necessity?

2) Provide A Clear Timeline For The Actioning Of The Sanitary Dignity Policy Framework, Including A Commitment To Begin Rolling Out Free Sanitary Products To South African Women In Need, Nationwide, In 2018

In 2016 and 2017, Treasury recommended the provision of free pads to those in need, funded by the national and provincial government. The commitment to providing free pads was reiterated by the new Minister of Women in the Presidency, Bathabile Dlamini, in March this year. Yet still, women across South Africa do not have access to free sanitary products.

Last year, the Department of Women called for input on a national policy framework for sanitary dignity. According to the department’s 2018 budget, there is provision for a task team to develop a framework for the supply of free sanitary products to indigent girls and women. Once that’s in place, they promise to pilot the framework in one province. The budget for this work is R4,2-million over the next three years. But we need to see this plan actioned and rolled out across South Africa – sooner rather than later.

It’s been a year since the government introduced the Sanitary Dignity Policy Framework, yet it’s still unclear when their commitments will be translated into action, or whether alternatives to pads will be considered. We’re planning to take a petition to the Portfolio Committee on Women, chaired by Thandi Memela, to remove VAT on sanitary products and ensure they’re affordable for everyone – and to remind them that they need to action their Sanitary Dignity Policy Framework stat. We need your voice – and your signature!

Click here to sign our petition – please spread the word on social media using #TamponTaxMustFall and tagging @CosmopolitanSA.

PLUS: Donate to women in need
COSMO has partnered with Sheba Feminine and Femme Projects to distribute pads to women who cannot afford them. Click here to donate – just R40 provides a pack of pads to those in need with Sheba.