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

Taxing Menstrual Products Is Like Taxing Women For Being Women

More from Shikha Sharma

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.

Let’s begin with the obvious. Once each month, almost every woman gets her period. She doesn’t get a say in this. She doesn’t actively look forward to it. Yet, it happens. It’s a process as natural as sleeping, eating and drinking. It’s necessary too: there’s no life without it. Yet, most of us are hesitant in even talking about it and keep brushing it under the carpet.

In India, when girls start menstruating, they don’t just begin a  journey of silence and dread. They embark on a battle – a battle against the stigma associated with bleeding. Then, there’s the pain. Periods hurt. They cause backaches and cramps. Periods can be a terrible hassle.

If you are a woman living in rural India, or for that matter, on Indian streets, things get way worse. Then having your period isn’t just a hassle; it’s a bloody nightmare – literally! Taboos, poverty, a lack of sanitary facilities and zero health education create an environment in which girls and women are denied what should be a basic right: access to affordable menstrual materials and accessible, clean private spaces to care for themselves.

The facts speak for themselves. In rural India, one in five girls drops out of school, after they start menstruating, according to a research by Nielsen and Plan India. Of the 355 million menstruating girls and women in the country, just 12% use sanitary napkins, according to the findings of the study, “Sanitary Protection: Every Woman’s Health Right”, undertaken by AC Nielsen in 2011.

Will the proposed tax on these products prove to be an extra headache for Indian women, for no fault of theirs?

Yet, instead of being counted as ‘necessities’, sanitary napkins are counted as ‘luxury products’ in India. With the introduction of GST, there is even a proposal to levy a 12% to 15% tax on them! Currently, sanitary pads are taxed between 12% to 14%, with the tax varying between the states. This would be funny, if it wasn’t so infuriating.

It was the unfairness of it all that impelled Sushmita Dev, an MP from Assam to start an online petition on Change.org demanding government make sanitary pads tax-free.

“Women are being taxed 12 months a year, for about 39 years on a process they have no control over.With the GST that is going to be implemented, a step needs be taken by the central government to make sanitary napkins tax free (like condoms and contraceptives) as it is an essential item which is a necessity for every woman,” her petition, that has since garnered nearly 3,00,000 signatures, reads.

In a country where women are forced to use things like straw and ash during their periods, putting a tax on sanitary pads seems like a travesty of common sense. It’s basically taxing women for being women.

After all, as Dev rightly questions, if condoms and contraception are tax-free to promote their use for health reasons, why on earth should sanitary napkins be any different?

It also unfairly adds to the economic burden of women, who as we all know, get paid less than men in comparable positions. The gender pay gap in India is as high as 67% – a man on an average earns $167 compared to the $100 earned by a woman, according to a report by Accenture Research.

It is also a prime example of how gender bias operates in a society where men sit in the upper echelons of power, and make all the laws. As Barack Obama told an interviewer when asked about the validity of a tampon tax in the US, “I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when these were passed.”

The need to get rid of this tax, however, goes beyond a financial value. The more problematic bit? It basically suggests that it’s okay to overlook the basic necessities of women. It is nothing short of legitimising misogynist discourse and period shame, by saying that the very basic needs of half the population of this country don’t matter.

Periods are no luxury. You can ‘opt into’ extravagance. You cannot ‘choose’ to menstruate. It’s imperative that this crucial difference is understood.

Taxing women for a biological process they have no control over is like taxing women for who they are. It is unfair and adds a whole heap of disadvantages for most women on top of those that already exist – and more so in a country like India, where access to affordable menstrual products for all still remains a distant pipe-dream. It’s a sword that cuts women on all sides.

_

Image used for representative purposes only.

Image Source : Facebook

More from Shikha Sharma

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