One Thing The Government Can Do Now To Help Women Live Healthier Lives

Posted by Sourodipto Sanyal in #IAmNotDown
May 15, 2017
This post is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s campaign #IAmNotDown to start a conversation on the stigma around menstrual hygiene women deal with. If you have an opinion on how we can improve access to menstrual hygiene products or a personal story of fighting menstrual taboos, write to us here.

The government needs funds to provide welfare. And a large part of its earning comes from indirect taxes on goods. However, there are certain areas, where indirect taxation causes an inconvenience to large sections of the society.

Let’s take sanitary napkins, for instance.

The indirect tax levied on sanitary napkins can extend up to 14.5%, depending on the state you are in, and that too as a luxury item! While the Delhi government recently reduced taxes on sanitary napkins,  the real questions remains “Why are they taxed at all?”

Especially in a country like India where women across several communities are isolated during menstruation. In some rural areas, women are made to live in huts called gaokors during their menstrual cycle, a practice prevalent in states like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Maharashtra.

According to a study done by AC Nielsen in 2011, out of the 355 million women who menstruate, only 12% use sanitary napkins. This increases their chances of contracting urinary and reproductive tract infections, since they resort to alternatives such as husk sand, unsanitary cloth and ashes.

Many women choose to not invest in it as millions live in soul-crushing poverty.

Such an attitude mocks modernity, the pillar on which democracy should ideally stand. If women aren’t empowered, a democracy should think twice before calling itself modern. And the government needs to realise this. Removing tax on sanitary pads is absolutely essential for:

Women’s Health

It will make sanitary pads cheaper and women who have to resort to unhealthy practices during menstruation will lead way healthier lives.

Women’s Education And Career

The insensitive tax levied on sanitary napkins also punctures the dreams of millions of women who wish to escape the cycle of poverty through education. According to the United Nations, 20% of girls in India drop out school after hitting puberty.

Lack of access to menstrual hygiene continues to be a bully as they start working. According to a survey conducted in various Indian cities in 2011, around 31% of the women contacted said that productivity levels during their menstrual cycle decreases.

Change Regressive Mindsets About Periods Being ‘Impure’

When the State itself levies a tax on women’s menstruation, it only lends a hand to the patriarchal notions of menstruating women being ‘impure’. Since, the politics surrounding menstruation has to do with with patriarchy, superstition (many temples and mosques don’t allow menstruating women to enter).

It’s time to change that. And it is only right that the government makes a statement by removing tax on sanitary napkins. The message it will send out is that there is absolutely nothing wrong or ‘impure’ about menstruation.

The purpose of taxation is welfare. Since welfare takes a backseat when such irresponsible and insensitive taxation is levied, it’s time to make a change at the national level. The government should wage war against the sexism associated with menstruation and make life easy for millions of women instead.