“ Women are being taxed 12 months a year, for about 39 years on a process they have no control over. How is that fair? ”
Welcome to a progressive India, where “essential” items like sindoor, bindis and bangles will not be taxed at all, but sanitary napkins will be taxed at 12%-14% under the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
According to the study, only 12% of the 355 million women in India use sanitary napkins. The number is even smaller in rural areas. And overall 70% Indian women cannot afford sanitary napkins. Menstruation is a natural and an unavoidable biological process for women. All women on an average menstruate from the age 12-51. It is systematically discrimatory for women to be taxed for something as basic and necessary like sanitary products. Which means, 88% women are still surviving on traditional methods like cloth pads, dried leaves and newspapers. Maybe it’s this disparity that makes people believe sanitary napkins are a luxury item when, in fact, they are a necessity.
System should understand this that sanitary napkins are necessity not a luxury and more women should be able to afford them. Sanitary napkins are taxed between 12%-14%, varying from one state to another- a practice which is expected to continue even under the GST. While the Delhi government has reduced the tax on sanitary napkins to 5 percent from the earlier 12.5 percent in March, the tax on sanitary napkins is still a stellar 14 percent under the Goods and Services Tax system in other states. Just like condoms, medicine are tax free in India, an account of its recognition as a necessity to safeguard health and life, so should sanitary napkins be exempt from tax.
Sanitary napkins are pretty basic needs, right? In India, a women needs to pay a price for something she doesn’t even choose. Because sanitary napkins are taxed in India. Essentially then, a women is not only bleeding out of her vegina for 12 months a year but also paying the government extra for it. Data also highlights that adolescent girls miss at least 5 days of school monthly, owing to their periods whereas close to 23 per cent girls drop out of school when they start menstruating.
So about a month ago a petition has been started by Sushmita Dev, a congress MP from silchar constituency in Asaam, started the aforementioned petition to Finance Minister, Arun Jaithley for sanitary napkins to made tax free as they are necessity for women. But what about the women who still do not have access to or awareness about menstrual hygiene products? Our demands to solve this problems-
1) Tax free sanitary napkins.
2) Including sanitary napkins as essential commodities under Essential Commodities Act.
3) Transparency and thorough implementation of menstrual hygiene schemes.
4) Sanitary napkins vending machine to be installed in public washrooms, government offices and educational institutions.
To tackle this very issue, a campaign is currently urging the Government of India to abolish taxes on sanitary napkins entirely. #LahuKaLagaan–that literally translates to ‘tax imposed on blood’- wants Finance Minister Arun Jaitely to exempt menstrual hygiene products like sanitary napkins from taxes that go upto 14.5 per cent in some states.
So while #LahuKaLagaan might seem like a campaign holding the idea of tax-free menstrual products, its real purpose goes much deeper than that. The idea is to not make this about the 12 per cent of women or leave behind the remaining 88 per cent- but to use the occasion as a means to benefit the 100 per cent female population and make affordable menstrual hygiene a basic human right instead of the utopian dream it seems like today.