Menstruation has always been a topic of taboo in society and people are still embarrassed to speak openly about it. Adding to this stigma, sanitary napkins are being taxed. Post G.S.T. when the tax slabs were decided the government thought sanitary napkins aren’t an ‘essential item’ but a luxury item and decided to impose a 12% tax on them.
Even before G.S.T. the gravity of the situation was HEAVY:
20% Indian women are alien to the concept of sanitary napkins. While in some areas women cannot even afford them. They use unhygienic alternatives like old fabric, newspapers, rags, sand, plastic, dry leaves and sometimes even cow dung. Ignorant about the fact that using such materials can lead to uterus cancer, a lot of women in India suffer from this disease. Before the G.S.T. , sanitary napkins were taxed differently in every state. In some states the rates were as high as 14.5%! This means for a packet costing Rs.70 for 7 pads women would end up paying Rs.84.5 in some states.
How do you expect her to prioritize her sanitation needs when they come with such a heavy price tag?
In the light of this situation the #LahuKaLagaan campaign gained WINGS:
#LahuKaLagaan: A trending twitter campaign was started by a non-profit organization called SheSays, to urge the finance minister to remove taxes imposed on sanitary napkins. Lahu ka Lagaan literally translates to tax on blood. Though the tax has come down from the initial 14% to 12%, it still doesn’t explain why sanitary napkins need to be taxed at all. Items of secondary importance such as Sindoor, Kajal and Bangles got away with a 0% tax rate (because apparently they are ‘essential items’) then why the 12% tax on sanitary napkins?
Women STAIN-ed social media with their views and opinions:
Celebrities, comedians and politicians all lashed out against this inane tax and supported the #LahukaLagaan campaign. Apart from this campaign other protests emerged and a signature campaign was started by the women’s wing of the National Congress Party. A hunger strike was also started at Azad Maidaan by Women from the Vichardhara Grami Vikas Sanstha.
But the government CRAMP-ed on all demands:
With so many protests against the period tax, the government released a statement explaining their rationale behind this tax. According to them the raw materials used in making sanitary napkins attract a higher G.S.T of 12% and 18% and that’s why they had to stick to their decision of taxing them at 12%. But at the same time contraceptive pills and condoms got away without being taxed.
India isn’t the only one suffering from PERIOD PAIN:
It is sad to know that this problem is not only faced by Indians, but many countries impose tax on tampons and sanitary napkins. Kenya and Canada are among the few countries in the world to keep sanitary napkins tax free. This just goes to show how little the world views our problems as serious ones and blatantly ignores our demands.
Feel free to give your views on this in our comments section and let’s hope we no longer have to feel poor when it comes to protecting our basic needs.