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 Goods and Services (GST).
To oppose the same, Pune based social worker, Pravin Nikam, has written to Arun Jaitley requesting 100 per cent tax exemption on environment friendly pads. Nikam emphasizes that menstrual cycle is natural and hence sanitary pads are a ‘necessity’ and not a ‘luxury’. He says that when only 12 per cent of India’s female population is using the sanitary pads, taxing them would lead to making hygienic living a distant dream for many who are from the marginalized section of society.
The letter states that, ‘Menstrual bleeding is not a voluntary act, neither is it a luxury. All women on an average menstruate from the ages of 12 to 51. On an average, women spend approximately 65 days menstruating every year. Only 12 per cent of India’s 365 million women use sanitary napkins. Incidents of reproductive tract infection are 70 per cent more common among these women.’
Nikam is the Founder and President of Roshani Foundation which works in sanitation and education of the marginalized in Pune, he said that he along with his friends he is going to start a social media campaign in opposition of the move of the government. The group is also planning to arrange street plays in order to generate awareness on the issue in Pune.
Nikam said, “I have been arranging workshops on menstrual hygiene and during that I met women who are using cloth, ashes and husk sand as an alternative to sanitary pad. There are millions of women in the country for whom sanitation pad is still not an affordable commodity. Instead of making it affordable, government is making it even more expensive. By taxing them government is making it as a ‘luxury’ commodity and is making it difficult for these women to use sanitary pads.”
He also said that it is a clear example of sex based discrimination and violation of many constitutional rights. He said, “Right to sanitation and health is fundamentally guaranteed under constitution of India. Article 14 which guarantees equality before law, article 15 which prohibits discrimination based on sex is also violated with this provision.”
Nilesh Sarwade, a SYBA (Second Year Bachelor of Arts) student who is also volunteers with Roshani foundation, said, “We are planning to mobilise people on this issue by arranging street plays. I come belong to Beed district. In rural areas people hardly even speak about menstruation, and using a sanitary pad is still a distant dream for them. How can government then ensure that even the women from rural areas get a chance to live with good hygiene if they are taxing the sanitary pads?”
Echoing a similar view, Kiran Moghe, feminist social worker from the city said, “They should have been considered to be a necessity and this is unfair to tax them as for most of the women using sanitary pad is not affordable. Government should instead give price exemption on sanitary pads.”