Opposition female MPs want tax on diapers reversed

Opposition female Members of Parliament have called for the reversal of the VAT imposed on diapers under the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2023 passed by Parliament last week.

The House rejected a proposal to exempt payment of taxes on adult diapers and instead approved a tax on diapers across board despite a minority report from the Opposition. 

Diapers have been VAT exempt in the past years and now government proposes to raise Shs2.6 billion  from the tax measure.

While addressing a press conference at Parliament on Wednesday, 10 May 2023, the MPs including Hon. Joyce Bagala (Mityana District), Christine Kaaya Nakimwero (Kiboga District), Brenda Nabukenya (Luwero District), Teddy Nambooze (Mpigi District) and Anna Adeke (Soroti District) all raised concern over the negative implications of the tax on the productivity of mothers, hygiene of babies and the elderly.

The MPs asked that diapers should also be VAT-zero rated under the laws of Uganda, so that consumers do not pay taxes for them.

According to the Shadow Minister for Information and Anti-Corruption, Hon. Joyce Bagala, imposing taxes on diapers will adversely affect the mothers’ productive time, reducing household incomes and ultimately national revenue.
“While the government proposal to impose a tax increment on diapers is intended to increase revenue, the country stands to lose if the productive time of mothers is wasted in washing reusable diapers,” said Bagala.

Bagala said that adult diapers improve their quality of life and make it possible for some of them to continue doing productive work.
“It is important to note that many of these senior citizens are retired and lack daily income streams to meet some of their needs. Taxing adult diapers will worsen the health conditions of older persons arising from improperly handled reusable nappies,” she added.

 Hon. Christine Kaaya Nakimwero, the Shadow Minister for Water and Environment asked for a plan for proper waste management of diapers instead of reducing the use of the product.
“We cannot go back to use of nappies…this is an era where we are trying to promote labour-saving equipment including diapers. If we reduce the taxes on diapers, this means more women will be able to afford and reduce time spent on unpaid domestic work. We want mothers to use diapers and be able to save some time for engagement in economic activities,” she said.

Hon. Brenda Nabukenya, the Shadow Minister for Education and Sports said that the tax on diapers is not researched and there is no clear background as to why government is imposing the increment.

Meanwhile, the female MPs indicated that they shall launch a campaign to compel government to fulfill its pledges, especially to provide free sanitary pads to students.

Four years ago, government pledged to avail free sanitary pads to students.
“The price for pads has remained high and ever increasing in some parts of the country. This has made the affordability of sanitary products out of reach for the majority of menstruating girls. Adolescent girls face a range of challenges that may compromise their chances of completing school. It is reasonable that the government provides them with sanitary products to help them manage menstruation,” Bagala said.

Nabukenya recounted that in 2022, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that among 10 learners, one drops out before Primary Seven and that one of the issues responsible for the drop out is menstruation.