Cynthia Arroyo | Staff Writer
On April 10, Ugandan activist Stella Nyanzi appeared in court for allegedly “cyber” harassing President Yoweri Museveni and wife Janet Museveni and “shaming” the government. Nyanzi’s cyber attacks were largely influenced by the regime’s refusal to provide free sanitary pads for women in Uganda, one of Nyanzi’s many crusades.
According to NPR, “in several in-depth surveys of girls across Africa many reported that they did not have access to products such as pads, that their schools lacked toilets and that they had not been given even basic information about managing their periods—all of which can make it challenging for a girl to attend class during her period.”
In the 2016 election, Museveni and his wife promised to provide these necessities to the women of Uganda, but they have since retracted that promise on account of the government’s alleged inability to afford the products.
To this statement, Nyanzi called the president “a man who finds money for millions of bullets, billions of bribes and uncountable ballots to stuff into boxes,” but who cannot find money to provide pads for the women in Uganda.
Uganda’s recent events are not unlike the United States’.
In December 2016, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D) introduced two bills to Governor Brown. The bills were created for the purpose of easing the financial burden of purchasing feminine hygiene products and getting rid of the the infamous “tampon tax.”
The U.S. deems products such as pads and tampon “luxury items,” qualifying the items for sales tax. This is in contrast to “necessities,” which do not have a sales tax and which vary from state to state.
In the eyes of 37 state lawmakers, periods are a “luxury.”
According to research by Euromonitor, American women spent $3.1 billion on feminine hygiene products in 2015, with the “tampon tax” bringing in about $20 million for the government.
Assemblywoman Garcia’s bill AB 9 would have done away with the tampon tax altogether and bill AB 10 would have made feminine hygiene products free in schools and other places like shelters.
However, Governor Brown vetoed both of Garcia’s bills on account of budget restrictions.
Garcia said, “Every month, for 40 years of our lives, we are still being taxed for being born women. Every month of our adult life we are taxed for our biology.”
More states are introducing bills to abolish the “tampon tax” each year and people around the world are fighting for women’s access to sanitary pads and products.