Over 2,400 People Sign #NoGSTonPeriods Petition And It's Still Going Strong
"Why should women be penalised with having to pay tax for what is biological?," asks Kajang-based Kamelia Shamsuddin, who works as a Senior Marketing and Communications Officer.
In an online petition started to stop the government from imposing GST on sanitary products, she writes that the move to tax sanitary pads infringes on the basic rights of women to access sanitary aid.
Started on 19 March, its purpose is to urge Putrajaya to exclude sanitary products and put them under the zero-rated items in regard to the GST, as they are a necessity for women due to their gender. At the time of writing this, it has been signed by over 2,400 people.
"We should not be penalised for simply being born a woman."
Called "Stop taxing Malaysian women for their Periods! Period", the petition further makes the argument that while the government is justified in taxing several of the services and products in regards to country's profit, the same should not extend to feminine sanitary products that women need on a monthly basis.
Kamelia is also running a Facebook page with the of her friend Kasthuri Sritharan to garner more support for the issue through social media.
"We need to use it every month. We cannot avoid buying it."
Speaking to FMT, Kamelia said that it would be even harder for women to put aside money for savings as after the implementation of GST these sanitary products would cost more.
"A middle-range brand of 30 sanitary pads now cost RM16. When GST comes in force, it will cost more than that. This will restrict a woman's ability to purchase products that are essential to assist them during their monthly cycles.
I cannot imagine how women living in the rural areas are going to cope with that (increased cost)," Kamelia said.
She told FMT that the petition was started because she wanted to create awareness on the needs of Malaysian women. "I was angered to learn sanitary products are GST taxed items." In the petition she highlighted an incident on the issue of additional costs for sanitary products becoming a laughing matter in parliament.
According to a report by FMT, Tiong King Sing (BN-Bintulu), a member of parliament evoked amusement when he conveyed in the Dewan Rakyat his female constituents’ anxiety about having to pay more for sanitary napkins when the GST (Goods and Services Tax) will be enforced on 1 April.
"Kotex (sanitary napkins) will cost more… the women grumbled that they would then have to pay GST every month!… and many other things such as tomato sauce, chili sauce, sharpeners, pencils and toilet cleaners.
"They said they are confused and asked whether these things will be charged GST,” explained Tiong King Sing, drawing laughter from the audience while debating the motion of thanks on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s speech in Parliament.
Hoping that Putrajaya "will exclude sanitary pads from the GST taxed items before it comes into force", Kamelia is considering bringing the petition to the Women, Family, and Community Development Ministry if sanitary pads were still not excluded.
The petition, which is gradually spreading among women in Malaysia, makes a strong argument against the need to tax basic healthcare product that assists in a woman's monthly cycle.
Speaking to SAYS, Kamelia said that they "will be setting a one month deadline from 20 March. Whether the numbers will make a difference, we don't really know. We are hopeful, but realistic."
"This is an awareness (campaign) that feminine sanitary products are a basic need. It's not a luxury or a want that we can have an option for. This fact seems to get lost in a patriarchal parliament."