The social and political atmosphere in the country has changed in such a way that even the most ardent male chauvinist would present himself as one who respect women and their equal rights. But what about the government? Despite the talks about gender sensitiveness and even gender budgeting what is happening on ground? Taxing women. Yes if you are a woman you have to bleed every month and you of course need to use a sanitary pad for it, and the government has taxed a woman’s basic necessity. Tax on sanitary napkins is being viewed by many as an affront to the womanhood. and no less than an MP is now spearheading an online campaign against it
Sanitary pads overpowered the cotton cloth used, washed and re-used every month by women since a long time. As business flourished, industries began investing in manufacturing sanitary pads used every month but for a ‘taxed price’. The menstrual hygiene product is 14.5 per cent tax apart from the MRP price. Due to the unaffordable price, only 12% of the 355 million women in India use sanitary napkins while the number still goes down in rural India. And overall, 70% Indian women cannot afford sanitary pads, says a petition called Tax Free Wings on Change.org.
Sushmita Dev, a Congress MP from Silchar constituency in Assam says, “Women are being taxed 12 months a year, for about 39 years on a process they have no control over. How is that fair?” Sushmita started a petition to be forwarded to the Arun Jaitley, Union Finance Minister to undo taxation on sanitary pads being the basic necessity of every woman.
The MP also agrees that reducing the price of pads alone will not solve the problem as there still exist women who do not know the hygienic advantages of using disposable sanitary pads.
I cannot petition the Finance Ministry about awareness though. What I can do in my own constituency is raise capital funding for vending machines to be installed in schools and public toiletsSushmita Dev, Congress MP
Sushmita’s petition also mentions the environmental impact of disposable menstrual hygiene products. “As the plastic used in sanitary napkins is non-biodegradable it leads to degradation of the environment,” says the petition. The MP also suggests that environment-friendly sanitary pads (reusable or biodegradable ones) will be given 100 percent tax exemption while a minimal tax should be levied on the disposable ones to discourage its large scale use.
However, India is not alone in the battle against the taxation of sanitary products. Britain’s “tampon tax” has been in the headlines for quite sometime. In 2016, then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced, after sustained media scrutiny and protests, that sanitary napkins and products would be taxed at zero percent. but complications following Brexit have postponed the amendment, pertaining to the fact that women in UK pay a huge price for their physicality.