Sex For Pads: Period Poverty Worsens With New Govt Policies and Inflation Crisis

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By Rhoda Krah

Yahaya is a 15-year old student at Macedonia Day Star Institute in Nsawam. Every month she misses at least four days of school and has to stay home because she cannot afford sanitary pads during her period.

Menstruation is a woman’s monthly bleeding, often called ‘period’ or ‘menses’. When a woman menstruates, her body discards the monthly buildup of the lining of her uterus (womb). Menstrual blood and tissue flow from her uterus through the small opening in her cervix and passes out of her body through her vagina. Sanitary pads are worn by women during this time to manage blood flow.

“Sanitary pads have become very expensive; one sanitary pad is 20 cedi, and my mum can’t afford it like before when it was 5 cedi. And so I prefer to help her save money by using handkerchiefs and old clothes as my pad during my menses.”

On 12th September, 2022 the Ghanaian parliament placed a luxury tax of 20% on sanitary pads and passed the VAT Act, (1082) for an additional 12 .5% which more than doubled the cost of pads ($1.70), coupled with inflation of about 32%.

Research conducted by the BBC says Ghana has the most expensive products relative to monthly income, as women have to spend one in every seven dollars they earn on sanitary pads.

“My mum is a single parent, and before, we could afford to buy sanitary pad every month; now, we can’t anymore since she works at a chop bar. Her salary is not enough to buy pads for both of us every month,” she explains.

Menstruation is a normal and healthy part of life for girls and women. Roughly 26% percent of the world’s population (including 7 million girls and women in Ghana) menstruate every month.

To add insult to injury, one out of four Ghanaian public basic schools does not have toilets or clean water supply, both of which are essential for girls to manage their menstruation hygienically and confidently. This means over 1.4 million school children do not have access to toilets or potable water.

Global Evidence suggests that menstrual hygiene practices, such as infrequent changing of pads, increase the incidence of reproductive tract infections.

Whereas most girls use and consider disposable sanitary pads a necessity to preserve hygiene, self-confidence, and dignity, they are costly and subject to a 20% import tax in Ghana.

Abigail, a 23-year old street hawker at Nkrumah Circle in Accra recalls a time where she had no money to buy sanitary pad and the only person to help wanted sex in exchange.

“Before, I would have said an outright ‘no’ since I was working, but my profit was not enough to feed, pay to bath, and buy pad as well since I sleep with a group of friends in an abandoned shop….I later gave in, since it was the only way out of wearing a pad for a day or two”.

According to Valuate Report, girls at risk of sexual exploitation are increasingly in relationships with partners 10 years or older, which comes with unequal power dynamics and can be equivalent to commercial sexual exploitation, result in violence, unwanted adolescent pregnancy, as well Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) – including HIV/AIDS.

In the central region, a total of 578 female students dropping out of school after getting pregnant may be attributed to their inability to buy sanitary pads. According to reports, these young girls are impregnated by cocoa farmers, ‘Pragya’ tricycle riders and taxi drivers as they exchange period pads with sex.

“Why should I beg or exchange myself just to menstruate?” Cried Kwansema a 15 year old school dropout in Elmina in the central region. “I use to be a student at the Elimina Methodist JHS but ever since I got pregnant I have been home”

Kwansema says she was influenced by a friend to sleep with an older man for money to buy pad since that was how she [the friend] also got money to get hers.

“I tried, but I wasn’t fortunate like my friend, and I got pregnant”, she said tearfully. “Why should I beg or exchange myself just to menstruate?”

According to Social psychologists, girls facing period poverty go into severe depression sometimes.

Meanwhile, MP for Madina, Francis-Xavier Sosu, NDC member of parliament, and campaigners like Nana Hemaa Adowa Awindor, the Executive Director of the Obaapa Development Foundation, are pushing for tax exemptions with the hope of lowering prices for menstrual hygiene products.

A private member’s bill proposing an amendment to remove the Value Added Tax (VAT) on menstrual hygiene products like sanitary pads and tampons has been sent to parliament Mr. Francis Sosu.

In June 2023, a group of women protested outside parliament to show their unhappiness with the increased price of sanitary pads in Ghana and how badly it is affecting women.

Charities like CAMFED Ghana, Global Citizen Organization and UNICEF and provide needy girls with sanitary pads.

20 thoughts on “Sex For Pads: Period Poverty Worsens With New Govt Policies and Inflation Crisis

  1. This is just sad
    The government is supposed to do something about the prices of such needed materials
    It’s sad to see that this girl had to get pregnant just for money for sanitary pad

  2. Very sad to read. But do people really get pregnant to save money? Bcos for 9 months that will work But after 9 months what happens to the upkeep of the child?

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