Goods and Service Tax (GST) has been the matter of discussion ever since early this year. A GST council meeting was held on Friday when certain commodities were removed from the list of GST applicable goods. Certain commodities’ GST was further reduced.
Interestingly, Supreme Court just passed a statement saying it would install sanitary pad vending machines in its premises. “Sanitary pads that are made using banana fibre or the ones that are biodegradable should not be charged. Basically, menstrual hygiene has to be affordable and accessible. Now that Judiciary has passed out this statement, I’m very sure the executive will do the same,” said Pravin Nikam, founder of Roshani, an NGO that works to promote menstrual hygiene.
“I am hopeful that the taxes for sanitary pads will be relooked into, because the present government is trying its best to positively change the environment for the women,” he added.
In May 2017, Nikam had written to Arun Jaitley, the finance minister. “I am hopeful that our PM and central government will make sanitary napkins tax free, as it is an essential commodity”, he added.
On the otherhand, some activists say that the move by the government to not reduce or slash charges on sanitary napkins is clear discrimination. “Condoms are not included in the list of GST items, but something as essential as sanitary napkins is charged 12%,” said Snehal Chaudhari, founder of Kshitij Foundation, an NGO that works towards spreading awareness on menstrual hygiene.
Talking about menstrual hygiene, one of the key concerns has been about openly discussing the issue. “It’s very sad to see that menstrual hygiene isn’t talked and taught about openly. The fact that sanitary pads aren’t yet considered as a basic necessity is an unfortunate reality,” said Dr Sargam Soni, Consulting Gynecologist , Obstetrician and Infertility expert from Mumbai.