Once again, Tanzanian women have become the target of certain unpopular decisions by the Magufuli administration following the latest move to impose a tax on wigs and hair extensions.
Finance Minister Philip Mpango, in his budget speech in parliament on Thursday, announced a 25 per cent tax on imported wigs and hair extensions and a 10% tax on those made locally. He said that these were part of measures aimed at increasing government revenue.
Those in support of the levy say it will make women keep their natural hair, but critics, largely women, feel the decision is mainly to hurt them.
“People love artificial hair. Why of all the things that could be taxed did they opt for wigs?” a popular Tanzanian importer of wigs, Annasatasia Sigera asked while speaking with the BBC.
For others, the measure could ruin relationships, as most men in Tanzania are used to seeing their wives with wigs and extensions, a trend that many young women have embraced.
Meanwhile, women are also up in arms against the government’s decision to scrap the exemption on value-added tax placed on sanitary towels. Finance Minister Mpango explained that since that exemption was introduced, consumers had not benefited as businesses refused to reduce their prices, but women feel the measure is unfair.
This is not the first time that government policies and decisions have disproportionately hit women in Tanzania.
Last September, the country stepped up its authoritarian game by further attacking the rights and freedoms of women. This was after the speaker of parliament banned women MPs from wearing eyelash and nail extensions in the legislative house.
Job Ndugai said that he is also considering banning women MPs with “excessive makeup” from entering the House, reports local media The Citizen.
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His decision on wigs and hair extensions was in reaction to a statement by the Deputy Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Faustine Ndugulile, who told the House that eyelash and nail extensions are creating several health implications for women in the country.
A day before this incident, Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, told a crowd at a public rally at Meatu in the Simiyu Region to stop birth control and produce many children to work on their farms.
He described those using family planning as lazy and afraid to work hard to feed a larger family, reports The Citizen.
“You people of Meatu keep livestock. You are good farmers. You can then feed your children. Why would you opt for birth control? These are my views, but I do not see any need for birth control in Tanzania,” he said.
“I have travelled to Europe and elsewhere and I have seen the side effects of birth control. In some countries, they are now struggling with declining population growth. They have no labour force,” he added in the presence of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative in Tanzania Jacqueline Mahon.
He called on them to keep producing children because the government is building hospitals that will improve maternal health.
This is the same president who upheld a controversial 2002 law in 2017 that bans pregnant schoolgirls from returning to school after giving birth. He also supported the order to arrest all pregnant schoolgirls to serve as a deterrent.
In January 2018, the authorities arrested five pregnant schoolgirls and their parents. They explained that the arrest was to ensure that they testified against those responsible. The Mwanza Regional Commissioner John Mongella issued the order at an education stakeholders meeting in December last year.
The reason behind their arrest was to end the growing teenage pregnancies in the country, prevent other girls from engaging in sexual activities and get the girls to testify against the culprits who are on the run, district official Mohammed Azizi told local media.
The country continues to deny its citizens human rights as the media, opposition parties and musicians have all been victims of the regime which has formulated laws that stifle dissent and violate freedom of expression.
The country is also considering a law that will make it illegal for anyone to question government statistics, reports rights bodies.
Unfortunately, women are the most affected in Tanzania as the men propose the laws and they only have to obey even though it doesn’t favour them.