“Sex Is A Choice, Periods Are Not.”
But Condoms Are Tax Free.
“India is about to cross an important milestone in implementing the GST bill and this has brought to the forefront a long pending demand of various activists and organization’s to reduce or abolish the tax on sanitary napkins,” the petition titled Tax Free Wings by Dev addressed to Jaitley reads. Condoms and contraception are tax-free in India, but sanitary napkins used by millions of women are not, Dev cites.
“Women have to use sanitary napkins every month. They are a necessity, not a luxury. Taxing sanitary napkins is like taxing women for being women. If condoms and contraception are tax-free to promote their use for health reasons, so should sanitary napkins”
There have also been several post and campaigns such a ‘Don’t Tax My Period’ and ‘Lahu ka Lagaan’ on social media, explaining and arguing why this tax is problematic. However, there have also been some who don’t understand what the fuss is all about, among the many, the one post that hit the hardest was this post by a man on Facebook:
“Wait, these girls who visit Starbucks, drink expensive alcohol, wear expensive branded make up, shop at expensive malls, have no political opinion on anything at all and don’t know how taxes work-
Are complaining about taxed Sanitary Pads? I’m sorry, that’s not how it works. If you can afford all of this, a 12% taxed pad isn’t really taking anything away from you. Stop crying”.
This post, along with 12 percent tax on sanitary pads and its listing as a luxury product is perhaps
the best example of how little India knows and cares about its women citizens. Before I further elaborate on why this is problematic, I would first like to present a few facts:
- Menstruation is a purely biological and natural function, NOT A CHOICE.
- Only 12 percent of women and girls in India can afford sanitary pads.
- 88 percent women and girls use cow dung cakes, cloth, cotton, mud, newspaper, wood, ash, leaves and etc., since they cannot afford sanitary pads.
- A large number of girls drop out of school after hitting puberty, as a result of being unable to use sanitary pads and having to use cotton, wood, etc., which causes great discomfort.
- Anyone who’s ever had periods will never tell you it’s a fun experience, let alone that buying pads is a ‘luxury.’ (Although, with the 12 percent tax on them now, if you can afford them – that is a luxury!)
- A woman’s political opinion or the lack of it has no implication whatsoever on how our reproductive system works!
Several gynecologist’s and doctors to have come out in support and opposed the heavy taxation on sanitary pads, pointing out that this will lead to an increase in more unhygienic and unhealthy practices, especially in rural areas.All campaigns and pleas however, seem to fall on deaf years. The Finance Ministry has justified the move by arguing the increase in production costs and the need to protect local manufacturer. Overlooking the absolute necessity of sanitary pads for women, the finance ministry has chosen to safeguard and focus on the interest of manufacturers and producers, keeping in line with its agenda of economic development, devoid of any attempts at human development.
The process of formulating the GST rules was an all-male affair, with no women included or consulted on what must be listed as essentials for women and be tax free. This not only goes on to show that women are more than often absent in decision making processes that concern them, but also raises serious questions over the government commitment towards improving the status of women and women’s health in the country.At this point, it is worth wondering, if at all women’s issues are and will be ever taken serious in this country, rather than being provided with baseless justifications or prescriptive solutions, mostly from men, who know and understand almost nothing of a women’s everyday experiences as beings and as citizens of India.