As the title reads, In India, we women are being taxed for who we are. Wondering why I am saying so? It is because we pay tax to use sanitary napkins. This tax slab would vary according to the state before GST but with the introduction of GST, the tax percentage is uniform all over with 12%. The sanitary napkins which are categorized under the luxury items by the policy makers is a basic necessity for each and every woman.
Menstruation is a very natural biological phenomenon. In India, around 355 million women menstruate. This is not a luxury, it is not like the rich and affluent bleed and the poor don’t, it is not at all like that. Under many surveys, it has been accounted that 88% of Indian women cannot afford sanitary napkin and thus end up using dry clothes, ashes, husk, sand and else. These unsanitised methods lead to RTIs ( Reproductive Tract Infection) which is 70% more common among these women. Recently a case was being reported in Assam where an 18-year old girl died after a parasite was found inside her stomach. Later when doctors stated the reason it was because of the unhygienic practice of using cloth during periods.
It is not only that the health is being affected in fact in the surveys it has been clearly seen that the education of girl child is almost compromised in rural India because of unaffordable sanitary pads. In rural India, one in five girls drops out of school after they start menstruating. It is like our government is ignoring the basic need of half of the population which is their necessary safeguards for health and life. A strong campaign called #lahukalagan( tax on blood) started by an NGO called Shesays was trending some days back. This campaign was joined by celebrities like Vishal Dadlani, Mallika Dua, Shenaz Treasurywala urging the finance minister Arun Jaitley to remove the tax from the sanitary napkins. But all in vain after revising the tax slabs of 66 items in the bill sanitary napkins still hold the same place.
This ignorance of the policymakers went un-tolerable for me when I saw Bindi and Bangles being tax-exempt. Afterall bindi is not going to stop us from bleeding. It is basically about priorities. The government thinks that we can’t do without bindis and bangles after all ‘Suhag Ki Nishani’ is important for us Bhartiya Nari but not sanitary pads. Easy reach to sanitary napkins would lead to raising school attendance and women’s participation in the workforce. But our government do they even care.
They don’t care because they are all men.There is no major participation of the female entity in the policy making which results to all this indifference. Talking about menstruation, in general, is also a taboo in our society. There is a lot to discuss it in open spaces and not closed doors. The illogical practices, severe health issues and to top it all unaffordable sanitary napkins. Hope that the government gets it clear that menstruating is not a luxury option for us but part of being who we are the women.