By Our REPORTER
Kampala-Uganda [SHIFTMEDIA] The Womens Probono Initiative (WPI) has dragged government of Uganda to court over introduction of taxes on adult diapers, a scenario that is seen as a threat to scores of Ugandans who utilize them for life comfort.
Addressing the press at their Kampala offices on Friday, Maria Bukirwa the WPI Program Manager said: “Adult diapers play a critical role in the daily lives of millions of people worldwide. Their significance goes beyond mere convenience, as they serve as essential medical supplies for those with disability, illness, or age-related conditions.”
Bukirwa noted that at the Women’s Probono Initiative, they strongly believe that these essential commodities should not be subject to taxation. “We have today sought the Intervention of the High Court to review the Ugandan government’s move to impose 18% taxation on all diaper,” said Bukirwa.
Adult diapers, which had previously been listed as exempted goods, due to the unique needs and challenges faced by individuals who require their use for various medical or age-related reasons, were included in goods to be taxed under section 8 of the amendment to the Value added Tax Act on the 4th day of May 2023 by the Uganda Parliament.
“Adult diapers provide a dignified and practical solution to individuals who face challenges with incontinence. Diapers enable independence, freedom, and improved quality of life for those who rely on them” said Bukirwa.
Lona Naggawa, a lawyer at WPI noted that the taxation of these necessary products imposes an undue burden on the vulnerable individuals (especially women who give birth and suffer irreparable tears, persons with disabilities, elderly persons) and families who depend on them.
“By exempting adult diapers from taxes, Uganda can alleviate financial strain on those already facing significant medical and healthcare expenses. It is our firm belief that access to affordable and accessible adult diapers is crucial for promoting inclusivity, health, and well-being,” noted Naggawa.
she said as civil society and actors in the women’s movement, they believe that the decision by the Parliament not only undermines the provision of healthcare and dignified living for those in need but also perpetuates the systemic discrimination against women especially those who suffer from fistula, those with severe mental illness and those who use these diapers to manage their monthly periods.
Dr Isaac Odongo the project Officer Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Uganda described the slapping of taxes on adult diapers as “genocide’ to those who are relying on them to lead a comfortable life. “According to statistics, over 12,000 youth are having spinal code illness that allows them use adult diapers so as to lead some comfortable life. Also 33.3 out of 10,000 new births end up in conditions with deformed spinal that needs use of diapers,” said Odongo. He said all citizens have three priorities that matter: “Life, selfcare and leisure”, noting that depriving others of adult diapers, something that they use to ease their life, tatamounts to ‘genocide’.
“Tax relief for these products ensures that individuals with diverse needs can lead fulfilling lives, with the confidence and comfort they truly deserve,” said Dr. Odongo.
Yaka Gertrude from the Kireka School for Mental Health observed that the impact of taxation on adult diapers is not limited to those directly affected by the condition, but even Caregivers, and healthcare professionals like her, who work tirelessly to meet the needs of individuals relying on adult diapers.
“We, who handle children who are mentally challenged, these are kids who can’t control urine or excreta, the children are on diapers 24/7, are already facing challenges since prices are skyrocketing, and parents are complaining about the prices already,” said Yaka. She said some children who used to use between 6-8 diapers a day, are now restricted to between 3-5 due to price surge.
- Judiciary should recognize the imperative nature of this issue and take proactive steps to exempt adult diapers from taxes.
- The implementing agencies (URA, MoFPED) should listen to the voices of advocacy groups, healthcare professionals, caregivers, and those impacted directly, and work towards creating a system that truly prioritizes the needs of its citizens.
- Civil society organizations, women’s rights activists, and the public must stand in solidarity in the fight against this discriminatory tax imposition.