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Wits students calls on govt to scrap 'tampon tax'

Students at Wits University are demanding free pads for women in South Africa.

Picture: Freeimages.com

JOHANNESBURG - Amnesty International at Wits says it will hold a mass march tomorrow from the FNB building on its west campus to the university's Senate House before handing over a petition to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib on Friday, demanding that sanitary pads be made freely available on campus.

The campaign started earlier this month and has garnered the support of nearly 1,500 members of staff and students under the slogan "Worth Bleeding For".

The group is also calling on government to do away with a 'tampon tax' that has made the hygiene product increasingly unaffordable for South African women.

The sales tax applied to sanitary products, which are classified as 'luxury goods', has been challenged in previous years but to no effect.

Spokesperson Raees Noorbhai says, "On average, girls who can't afford sanitary pads in the country miss 60 days of school a year. That's a quarter of their schooling year, which is lost because they don't attend school when they menstruate and that's something we believe is unacceptable."

He says the broader goal is to dispel some of the taboo's surrounding menstruation in public discourse.

"We believe it's something that ought to be spoken about more openly in public. We need to break the taboos and ideas around menstruation being impure and stop punishing women for the functioning of their bodies. A lot of it is about the disparities that women in SA have on paper and the rights that they have in practice."

The petition is addressed to the vice chancellor, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi and Minister of Women, Susan Shabangu.

Rhodes University has also shown its support for the initiative and has organised a sanitary pad drive.

The SRC will be at the Kaif on Thursday from 12-2pm collecting sanitary pads that will be placed in boxes in various residences and digs.

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