Dilshani Palugaswewa questions the priorities and logic of certain parliamentarians
We need no reminder of the plight we are now facing with the continuous impacts of the ongoing pandemic that has left a dent in every aspect of our daily lives; however, it seems that some MPs might need much more than a reminder. In the past week, we saw a former actress turned politician vociferously counter-argue statements made by other female MPs who raised concerns on the adverse effects of taxing essential products such as sanitary napkins. These taxes have enormous negative impacts on young girls in poverty-stricken communities with regards to attending schools or rather not attending schools. It was pointed out that 60 per cent of girls who go to school don’t have access to pads as the prices of these products are in par with luxury items from their vantage point.
Instead, they do not attend school just so they won’t risk the embarrassment of potentially staining their clothes. As ridiculous as that sounds, it is true. The inaccessibility of sanitary napkins forces young girls to use substitutes such as cloth strips that may not be hygienic in the long-run and be detrimental to their health – not just physically but psychologically as well affecting their confidence and mental wellbeing. These are just highlights of the issue that arise when they don’t have access to essential items that are being marketed as luxury products. The actual issues are much larger and significant. Considering it is a basic necessity, one could argue that it shouldn’t have a tax in the first place, because how absurd is it to be taxed for something that is part of a woman’s biological design?
Speaking from a point of pure privilege, the aforementioned MP shamelessly argued that what women need is national security and not anything else like reduced taxes on sanitary napkins. While it is hard to decipher if she meant that the taxes levied on sanitary products would now make defence procurements affordable or if she was merely auditioning for her comeback to cinema and thus improvised on a prompt, the presented argument was rather ill-thought-out.
It’s so unfortunate that people like her who are in position to make grassroots changes, feel that a women’s basic right is worth less than national security. Does it even have to be either/or – why can’t we have both?
This discussion also falls in line with another laughable debate from the week before wherein another MP confidently said that a family can live an entire month off a budget of Rs 5000. He blatantly said people are protesting for no reason and they had already given them money, thus it is their fault for mismanaging the relief funds given to low-income families.
Is he for real? At least do a trial run first before confidently shaming people for asking legitimate questions of life and death. Or have he and his family already done so and even managed to save some extra money at the end of the month to treat themselves to a grand dinner? Because that would be the only rhyme behind this optimistic reason.
It is one thing to say that he will look into a possibility of increasing the funds however can’t promise anything definitely, as the Government too is also hard-hit by the ongoing crisis but to outright say that they have done wrong with the allocated amounts by eating three, likely simple, meals a day for a week, is nothing less than inhumane.
The irony is that these people who earned decent daily wages pre-COVID, even then barely managed to eat three meals a day while managing other household necessities, are now in a worse scenario left to dignify why they need more money to live a month while parliamentarians who blow up citizen funds are given subsidised rates for meals in Parliament – a meal worth Rs 3000 is now given to an MP at Rs 200. Why? Because they don’t have any perks or don’t get hundreds of thousands as a monthly salary? I’m sure it looks pretty fair from inside the house where the MP in question –former Minister of Construction, Engineering Services, Housing and Common Amenities – paid Rs 118,00 just for his electricity bill a few years ago.
And is it with this Rs 5000, with which a family can hardly breathe a sigh of relief, that they expect girls to afford sanitary napkins? Do they expect them to give up a day’s meal to do so?
It is not only appalling but deplorable that this is what our state of affairs is when this shouldn’t even be a discussion.
A females tax payer