Female legislators raise a red flag on imposition of tax on diapers in Uganda.

A week after Parliament overwhelmingly approved tax on both children and adult diapers, a section of female opposition legislators is now up in the arms protesting the decision.

While considering the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2023, Parliament rejected the proposal by the Ministry of Finance to exempt adult diapers from tax on grounds that they are manufactured for medical purposes.

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.

A distinction drawn between the main report of the Committee on Finance and a minority report authored by Butambala County Member of Parliament, Muwanga Kivumbi and Mukono District woman MP Anifa Nabukera caused a heated debate in the House.

The main report presented by Committee Vice Chairperson Jane Pacuto supported the proposal by the government to tax all diapers save for adult diapers while the minority report pitched for exempting of all diapers.

The committee in its report justified that exempting all diapers from VAT will be hazardous to the environment since they are not biodegradable and may be dumped everywhere if all categories of people easily access them.  It added that the government only wanted to exempt taxes on adult diapers because they are worn for medical reasons.

“Currently, all types of diapers are exempted. The Ministry added that the proposed change in the law aims to clarify that it is adult diapers that are treated as medical goods but not all diapers. The committee observed that diapers are not biodegradable which makes them an environmental hazard. The proposed change in the law aims to clarify that it is adult diapers that are treated as medical goods but not all diapers.” Reads part of the report.

Meanwhile, Kivumbi while presenting the Minority report insisted that there should not be segregation in determining which categories of people to be exempted from VAT on diapers because not only the elderly can wear them for medical reasons.

“The committee’s finding that diapers are not biodegradable is not premised on scientific evidence. There was no data furnished to the Committee that the imposition of this tax would remedy the side effects of diapers on the environment. It defeats logic to rule that only adult diapers are treated as medical goods but not all diapers.” Kivumbi said.

During the debate presided over by Speaker Anita Among, the lawmakers insisted that the tax exemption might be abused hence slapping tax on all the diapers that will be used in the country in the 2023/24 financial year.

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

While addressing a press conference at Parliament this week, the female opposition MPs led by Mityana District Woman MP Joyce Bagala said that the tax on diapers for children will have negative implication on mothers, baby and elderly hygiene.

Others who addressed the media are; Christine Kaaya Nakimwero (Kiboga District), Brenda Nabukenya (Luwero District), Teddy Nambooze (Mpigi District) and Anna Adeke (Soroti District).

The MPs asked that diapers should also be tax exempted under the laws of Uganda, so that consumers can easily access them since they are a necessity.

Bagala insisted that 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,” Bagala said.

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.

 Nakimwero, who is also 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.

Luwero District woman MP Brenda Nabukenya said that that the tax on diapers is not researched and there is no clear background as to why government is imposing the increment.

The MPs instead demanded that government makes good of its outstanding pledge to provide free sanitary pads to the school going girl child across the country. Some girls have been dropping out of school after failing to secure themselves during monthly cycles.

“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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *