National Assembly member urges Seychelles’ government to make menstrual products more accessible
A female member of the National Assembly is urging the government to take measures to make menstrual hygiene products for girls and women more accessible to those who cannot afford them.
The elected member of the Glacis district in the National Assembly, Regina Esparon, brought the issue forward through a motion that was tabled on Wednesday.
In her opening statement, Esparon outlined that for girls and women, menstruation is not a choice but rather something natural that cannot be prevented or stopped.
“To ensure that during their period they are comfortable and continue with their everyday activities, they need sanitary products. These products are basic necessities for women and this motion touches a subject that affects more than half the population of Seychelles, as in the country, the population of women is higher than that of men,” said Esparon.
She urged the government, in partnership with the private sector, to look at how the price of these commodities can be reduced. She also asked the government to look at the possibility to make menstrual hygiene products freely accessible in schools and at the maternity ward.
Esparon said that girls and women who do not have the means to buy these products encounter a lot of obstacles and inconvenience every month.
“This also brings about mental and psychological effects on the person during this time. Many girls and women who are poor find themselves having to choose between buying food or sanitary towels as both are necessities,” she continued.
She explained that on average, should a girl or woman buy the cheapest brand of sanitary towels, the person spends between SCR1,200 per year. The costs for a family go higher the more female members it has.
Since 2015, many countries have relooked at the tax applied to menstrual hygiene products. Canada, India, Australia, Colombia, Malaysia, Ireland, Jamaica, Nigeria and Uganda are among countries that have removed taxes on menstrual hygiene products.
Esparon outlined that despite the fact that there is no Good and Services Tax (GST) on menstrual hygiene products in Seychelles, Value Added Tax (VAT) is added twice – once when sold as a wholesale good to retailers, and a second time when it reaches the shelves.
The motion was brought forth after the Ladies Circle Seychelles started a petition requesting that Seychelles changes the laws that allow for hygiene sanitary pads to be accessible and free to all women in the island nation. The petition was initiated on March 8 this year, on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
In the petition, the non-for-profit organisation outlined that, “condoms are accessible to all the public including schools and that sex is a choice for both males and females.”
“Women’s hygiene products are not free yet menstruation or bleeding forms part of a women’s biology. We have no choice in how we bleed, when we bleed, how painful it will be and when it will stop,” the petition read.
The chairperson of Ladies Circle Seychelles said that she and her colleagues are fighting for the recognition of women’s rights and that no profit should be made out of human suffering.
Many people who signed the petition saw the initiative as a good idea, with several people stating that the period is not a choice. Other signers of the petition outlined that not making sanitary towels free for women is sexist as men get free passes when they need condoms.
“We do not choose to have periods every month, just like we don’t choose to be sick, this should fall under health care and not be a luxury item. This way the market can no longer profit on our ongoing suffering,” wrote Fenella Morel.