Poor menstrual hygiene is conducive to almost 70% of all reproductive diseases, so costly sanitary napkins would, therefore, deter more women from observing menstrual hygiene, hence impacting their health. There is a GST of 18% on sanitary pads while bindi and sindoor do not fall under this taxable ambit.
To any sane individual sanitary napkins are a necessity and there cannot be any explanation for taxing them and exempting other less-important items by clubbing them in the category of a necessity. What could be the possible reason behind the Government’s decision?
The government affidavit submitted in Hon’ Court said: “Reducing the GST rate on sanitary napkins to nil, will result in complete denial of input tax credit to domestic manufacturers of sanitary napkins, while zero rating imports. This will make domestically manufactured sanitary napkins at a huge disadvantage vis-a-vis imports, which will be zero-rated.”
The affidavit further held that since raw materials for manufacturing the product attract GST of 18% or 12%, even 12% taxation on sanitary napkins is an inversion in the GST rate structure.
While almost everyone knows about the highly taxed pads, many are probably unaware of a recently-launched government scheme. Biodegradable sanitary napkins, priced at ₹2.50 per pad, on the eve of International Women’s Day, are now available at Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushdhi Pariyojana Kendras.
At a time when the average market price of four sanitary napkins is around ₹32, the government has launched these oxo-biodegradable pads priced at ₹10 for four pads especially for underprivileged women and women in rural areas who are unable to afford high-end sanitary products. Most of the napkins available in the market are non-biodegradable.
According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, about 58 per cent of women aged between 15 to 24 years use locally prepared napkins, sanitary napkins and tampons and in total 12% use sanitary napkins while over 88% resort to clothes, ashes, husk, sand etc.
The way ahead is taxing in urban metropolitan areas and subsidising in rural India. If the plan is implemented correctly we can reduce the percentage of young girls dropping out of schools or missing school (along with a midday meal) for five days, every month.