Menstrual hygiene remains a critical issue in India. Sanitary napkins can be termed as a vital product to maintain menstrual hygiene; it has been taxed at 12 per cent as per the recently released Goods & Service Tax (GST) schedule for goods.
Swati Jaihind, Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women has requested Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to make sanitary napkins completely tax free under GST. In her letter to Finance Minister she has urged him to make this decision in order to improve women’s health and hygiene.
A study published by AC Nielsen revealed that only 10 to 12 per cent of women use pads in India. Rest 88 per cent, use ashes, newspapers, sand husks and dried leaves because they can not afford sanitary pads.
For many women sanitary napkins are well above their economical reach. They cannot afford to buy this expensive product for to help them during their monthly cycle. After being taxed at 12 per cent under GST, it will be even more difficult for women who are economically weaker to gain access to it.
Swati Jaihind raised this issue in her letter addressed to Arun Jaitley. She said, “Taxation of sanitary napkins which is a basic necessity, denies its access to many. It makes sanitary napkins unaffordable for millions of poor Indian women who end up using dangerous materials such as dirty cloth, straw, ash and sand instead”
Chitra Wagh, former member of Maharashtra women’s commission also criticized government’s decision. “All over the world 27 per cent women die due to cervical cancer. The percentage of Indian women who are suffer because of poor menstrual hygiene is on the rise. Government should reconsider this decision so that sanitary napkins become affordable for the poor women.”
Pravin Nikam , a 23 year old social activist, who recently honoured by Government of Maharashtra for spreading awareness about the menstrual hygiene also criticised the government’s move to tax sanitary pads. “Sanitary pads are seen as luxury item. If condoms can be seen as a need then should be sanitary pads. Charging 12 per cent tax will make it more difficult for women to afford it.”
Meanwhile, Vijaya Rahatkar, Chairperson of Maharashtra Commission of Women, also made a similar demand but with a suggestion. “We have already raised this issue before the government. The demand should be specific. We should take into account whom will benefit from it. The tax exemption of sanitary napkins will benefit big companies. We need to promote sanitary napkin production companies on a local level. Now we are studying this issue and will put a specific demand before government.”