Sri Lanka’s period poverty rate is at 50%, new study shows

March, 19, 2022

The “Taxing Menstrual Hygiene Products in Sri Lanka: a policy analysis” study reveals that over 50% of women in Sri Lanka experience period poverty; indicating that 50% of households with women of menstruating age do not report spending any money on sanitary napkins. The study was published through the Assisting Communities in Creating Environmental and Nutritional Development (ACCEND) Project and focuses on how the taxation of menstrual hygiene products results in unaffordability for over 5 million women, thereby leading to period poverty.

At present, sanitary products in Sri Lanka are taxed at 52%, making pads and other menstrual hygiene products unaffordable for women in low-income groups of society.

The study was conducted by Advocata Institute on behalf of the ACCEND Project, which is jointly implemented by ADRA and Oxfam, and funded by the European Union. The launch took place on the 15th of March 2022 where a copy of the study was presented to the chief guest and keynote speaker, Hon. Dr. Harini Amarasuriya by Mr. Tilak Karunaratne, Country Programme Manager for Oxfam in Sri Lanka, and Mr. Matthew Whitty, Country Director for ADRA Sri Lanka.

In her key-note address, Hon. Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, commended the campaign on drawing attention towards a pertinent issue. She highlighted that period poverty is “a problem that needs to be addressed holistically” as all issues pertaining to the economy, health, gender, and education are interlinked. Dr. Harini Amarasuriya further indicated it is crucial to ensure that budget allocations are made to continuously fund work that benefits women’s health and well-being.

Following the key-note speech, Jenny Correia Nunes, Head of Cooperation for the Delegation of the

European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, joined the launch virtually, making a statement on how “it is never too late to address the issues at stake.” She acknowledged that the study was the first of its kind in Sri Lanka to focus specifically on the cost of pads and sanitary products and the impact it has on girls and women, and that it was therefore an important subject area for women & girls, as well as society as a whole.

The launch was followed by a panel discussion which focused on the physical repercussions of period poverty and its socio-economic impact on women. The panel saw the participation of Dr. Rashmira Balasuriya, Head of Mentors at the Arka Initiative, Mrs. Vraie Balthazaar, member of the Progressive Women’s Collective, feminist researcher and activist, and Mrs. Lakmini Jayathilake, Gender Coordinator for Oxfam in Sri Lanka and was moderated by Ms. Sathya Karunaratne, Research Analyst for the Advocata Institute.