Lawyer sues Attorney General, Speaker, and GRA boss over sanitary pad taxes

James Kofi Afedo, a private legal practitioner, and his foundation have taken legal action against the Attorney General, the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), and the Speaker of Parliament. They have filed a case with the Supreme Court regarding the ongoing collection of taxes on sanitary pads.

Afedo argues that the actions of the defendants violate certain sections of Ghana’s constitution, which mandate equal treatment of all individuals under the law. He seeks a declaration from the court to clarify the proper interpretation of Articles 17(1), 17(2), 17(3), 24(1), 25(1), and 33(5) of the constitution.

According to Afedo, the imposition of a 20% excise duty on menstrual hygiene products, including sanitary pads, sanitary towels, menstrual caps, and tampons, as stipulated in the Excise Duty Amendment Act (2015), Act (903), is unconstitutional, null, and void. He considers it inconsistent and in violation of the constitution.

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The legal practitioner requests the court to order the first and second defendants to refund all excise duties and value-added tax collected since the enforcement of both taxes. The refunds are to be paid into a menstrual justice trust fund, which will be established and managed by the menstrual health coalition. The proceeds will be used to procure and distribute menstrual hygiene products to all junior and senior high schools under the supervision of the Parent Facilitators Association Ghana across the country’s regions.

Additionally, Afedo seeks an order to require the defendants to pay interest on the fund at the commercial bank lending rate from the date the taxes became effective until the final payment is made.

He also requests an injunction to prevent the defendants from further collecting the 20% excise duty and 17% value-added tax on menstrual hygiene products.

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One of the defendants, Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin, has already expressed his opposition to the taxes on sanitary pads. On June 5, 2023, Bagbin demanded the immediate removal of the taxes, stating that imposing taxes on sanitary pads is unacceptable considering the complications associated with the menstrual cycle. Bagbin’s comment came after increased calls for the government to remove the taxes, including protests by various stakeholders and a petition submitted to Parliament by a group of protesters led by Ama Pratt.

In response to these demands, the Speaker directed the minister responsible for implementing the tax to review the budget before presenting it to Parliament.

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