Women from Pune have criticized the recent move of central government to tax sanitary pads under Goods and Services Tax (GST). They are asking when condoms and sindoor are tax-free, why not sanitary pads?
Even though the expense associated with menstrual hygiene products is as unavoidable as menstruation itself, the government is planning to make it even more expensive by adding it as a taxed commodity under GST.
To oppose the same, Pune-based social worker, Pravin Nikam, has written to Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley requesting 100 per cent tax exemption on environment friendly pads. Echoing with Nikam, women from the city say that it is like taxing women for being women.
Dr Manasi Pawar, physiotherapist from the city, said, “There should not be any question of taxing sanitary pads. Instead government should make it available free of charge to poor people. Sanitary pads should not be treated as commercial product at all.”
In contrary to commercial pads, many environmentalist and health activists are promoting reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups. When asked about what is more hygienic, she said, “Reusable cloth pads are any time a safer option, as commercial pads have chemical content in it and if women do not change it frequently, it causes harm to the body. The current debate should not just end with taxation issue. Government and civil society should instead think about devising an option which would then become environment friendly and hygienic too.”
Diksha Dinde, Global Youth Ambassador of UN who recently received State Youth Award of Government of Maharashtra, said, “When condoms are tax-free, why not sanitary pads? Government had a chance to categorise it as a ‘necessary’ product, but instead they have categorized it as ‘luxury’.
“Luxury products are used by privileged class. Does the government think that only few women should use sanitary pads and not all? Many in rural areas otherwise also cannot afford these products. I oppose the move.”
Supriya Rakh, who has worked as ‘Samata Doot’ under Babasaheb Ambedkar Research Activity (BARTI) in Pune district to spread awareness of gender equality and sanitation, said, “I do not support taxing sanitary pads. There is instead a need for government to create awareness on menstrual hygiene which is lacking in rural areas. But, at the same time, I do not think that we should blindly use commercial sanitary napkins only. There is need for some improvement to make them more environment friendly.”
Rahi Shruti Ganesh, a student from Fergusson College, Pune, said, “It is biased decision by the government and it shows that government is losing sensitivity towards women. It is very absurd and non-progressive when government categorized sindoor and bangles as ‘essential’ products and sanitary napkins as ‘luxury’. It shows that government is then using women as symbolic capital. They should revoke the decision of taxing sanitary pads.”