A private legal practitioner, Mr. James Kofi Afedo Esq. has dragged the Government of Ghana, Parliament and the Ghana Revenue Authority to the Supreme Court over the imposition and collection of taxes on menstrual hygiene products.
The Writ which was filed on Thursday 29th June 2023 is invoking the original jurisdiction of the Apex Court to declare that the laws which imposed 20% Excise Duty and 17% Value Added Tax (VAT) on the products used by women to manage their monthly periods (menstruation) is sexually discriminatory, violates women’s right to education, work, and health, and therefore unconstitutional.
The Plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to order the Government to refund all the taxes collected from Ghanaians under the authority of those tax laws from the date of imposition until the date of judgment.
In addition, the Court is also requested to place an injunction on the Government, particularly the Commissioner-General, and prohibit him from further collecting the said taxes until the final decision of the Supreme Court on the case.
“Women and girls do not have a choice between menstruating or not. It is a fundamental part of their biological makeup. So it simply does not make sense that women and girls should be taxed at such exorbitant rates just because they are women. And we are surprised that despite intense advocacy from women’s rights civil society groups over the years, our governments have refused to listen,” Mr. Afedo told Awake News in an interview after filling the writ.
“This action is simply asking the Supreme Court to exercise its power to decide whether the said laws are discriminatory, violate women’s right to education, health and work, or not. And if the Court agrees with us, then it is fair that government must refund all the moneys it collected as taxes on menstrual hygiene products to those affected.” He added.
In 2015, the Government, through Parliament imposed the 20% Excise Duty on imported menstrual hygiene products after classifying them as luxury goods, and further imposed Value Added Tax of 12.5% at the time and now 17% on the same products as a sales tax.
Since then, a coalition of civil society groups have been advocating the removal or reduction of the taxes but to no avail.
In 2020, Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia made the matter an election issue when he reportedly promised that if the incumbent New Patriotic Party government was returned to power, it will prioritize the removal of taxes on menstrual hygiene products. However, almost three years down the line, nothing has been done about that promise.
Recently, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin expressed his shock at the existence of such taxes on a product that is essential to the survival and health of women and promised to ensure urgent action to remove the taxes.
Mr. Bagbin was reacting to a petition presented to him by the group of civil society organizations campaigning for the removal of the taxes after a match through the principal streets of Accra to drive home their campaign.
A decision of the Supreme Court in favour of the Plaintiffs will have a major positive impact on women’s right to menstrual health, education, and work, and promote access to affordable menstrual hygiene products to women and girls most in need across the country.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
Mr. James Kofi Afedo Esq. represents the Plaintiffs’ and can be reached on +233 50 733 3384; and by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the Full Writ: