This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rasmi Das. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Death Of A Woman In Assam Shows Why Govt. Needs To Remove The Tax On Sanitary Pads

More from Rasmi Das

G Talukdar, an 18-year old woman from Assam’s Baram area, died on 23 April after a parasite was found inside her stomach. The story came to light when the woman complained of severe pain after her stomach swelled in an abnormal manner. She was admitted to a hospital in Guwahati on Saturday evening.

Her family had noticed the swelling for almost two weeks but had assumed that she was pregnant as a result of an affair. Despite initially being concerned about the consequences of a pregnancy and the need to get her married, her family finally got her admitted to Guwahati Medical College and Hospital once she began suffering from serious stomach pain.

The doctors, after examination, found that a parasite had been scavenging her from the inside for almost two months, resulting in severe damage to her intestine. The doctors concluded that it had happened due to the unhygienic practice of using cloth in place of sanitary napkins during periods.

The use of old pieces of cloth in place of sanitary napkins is commonplace in rural Assam, where access to proper menstrual hygiene is still limited.

Take action!

Archana Borthakur, founder of Priyabandhu, a non-profit organisation working at the grassroots level on this grave issue, said over the phone that women from rural areas not only do not have access to proper menstrual hygiene but also do not wear panties. Drying their underwear in the sun being looked upon as embarrassing, many women prefer to let their underwear remain unwashed and highly infected, resulting in poor menstrual hygiene.

The government has been giving much importance to the use of condoms for safe sex but has not focused proportionately on menstrual hygiene. Some months back, Congress MP Sushmita Dev’s campaign for tax-free sanitary napkins under the new Goods and Services Tax regime had garnered a huge response from people all across the country. Her online petition had secured more than two lakh signatures.

Terming sanitary napkins ‘necessary safeguard(s) for health and life’, she wrote to Finance Minister Arun Jaitly asking for napkins to be exempted from the tax. Dev argued that zero tax on sanitary napkins would make them more accessible to girls and women, thereby raising school attendance and women’s participation in the workforce.

It is very tragic that such unhygienic practices have claimed several lives in this country – and that these deaths are, as yet, undocumented. As Archana Borthakur remarked, G Talukdar is just the tip of the iceberg.

You must be to comment.
  1. Meghna Norean

    I’m a bit concerned at the information this article is portraying. Is there any evidence that the parasite is from using cloth instead of sanitary napkins? I have researched and researched and haven’t been able to find any evidence that a parasite can enter the vaginal canal and somehow end up in the intestines or the stomach? If you took class 8 biology, you’d be able to figure it out. I’m not sure what kind of study the doctor did. While on the other hand, I have a lot of evidence on the ill-effect of sanitary pads and all the chemicals that can enter the body by using them.
    I have been using cloth pads for years now and not once have I had a problem, like the problems I use to have with tampons and sanitary pads! Yes, you have to use them hygienically, washing and drying properly and that comes with education. So the ‘fix’ isn’t to tell everyone to stop using cloth, but to educate people on how to use it correctly.

  2. Sneha Rooh

    Rashmi das , Id like to connect with you regarding an article that might interest you, can you drop me a mail at dreamsorama@gmail.com and check a Facebook page called orikalankini. Awaiting your mail.

  3. Harinder Jeet Singh Bedi

    Ok I think I might have a reasonable and logical answer.
    If one is to take all the taxes, by the centre, the state and the embedded taxes, Sanitary Napkins were already being taxed at around 13%. The GST Council put it in the 12% category. In the 12% category one has the additional benefit of availing input credit. So a lot of adhesives and additional materials that are used in the manufacturing of Sanitary Napkins are all 18% tax items. Hence, all the input items are taxed at 18% while the final item is taxed at 12%. Owing to this, after one avails of Input Credit, the next tax on the product is nominal as against the 13% tax bracket the Sanitary Napkins used to be in.if the Government exempts Sanitary Napkins from GST, then all the input taxes payable on raw materials used for manufacturing of Sanitary Napkins, which are mostly taxed at 18%, won’t be eligible to claim Input Credit. Consequently the local manufacturer would add it to the cost of the finished product which would ultimately be paid by the consumer. This would make locally manufactured Sanitary Napkins more expensive for the consumers.
    Other than that, the Chinese goods would be taxed at a lower rate, considering they would only have to pay 12% IGST (integrated GST). This would effectively make the Chinese product cheaper than the local manufacturer.The ultimate effect would severely compromise the Indian manufacturing sector in this category considering the market would be flooded with cheaper Chinese products are compared to locally manufactured products.
    I hope you get your answer if not I think there is no use convinicng someone who doesn’t want to be convinced.

  4. Harinder Jeet Singh Bedi

    If one is to take all the taxes, by the centre, the state and the embedded taxes, Sanitary Napkins were already being taxed at around 13%. The GST Council put it in the 12% category. In the 12% category one has the additional benefit of availing input credit. So a lot of adhesives and additional materials that are used in the manufacturing of Sanitary Napkins are all 18% tax items. Hence, all the input items are taxed at 18% while the final item is taxed at 12%. Owing to this, after one avails of Input Credit, the next tax on the product is nominal as against the 13% tax bracket the Sanitary Napkins used to be in.f the Government exempts Sanitary Napkins from GST, then all the input taxes payable on raw materials used for manufacturing of Sanitary Napkins, which are mostly taxed at 18%, won’t be eligible to claim Input Credit. Consequently the local manufacturer would add it to the cost of the finished product which would ultimately be paid by the consumer. This would make locally manufactured Sanitary Napkins more expensive for the consumers.

    Other than that, the Chinese goods would be taxed at a lower rate, considering they would only have to pay 12% IGST (integrated GST). This would effectively make the Chinese product cheaper than the local manufacturer (because the Chinese products being exported from China are exempt from export duty in their country).

    The ultimate effect would severely compromise the Indian manufacturing sector in this category considering the market would be flooded with cheaper Chinese products are compared to locally manufactured products.

More from Rasmi Das

Similar Posts

By Reethira Kumar

By Shruti Gautam

By Humaira Ali

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below