The Union Budget 2018 is around the corner, and if there is one thing which women are vehemently protesting for, it is the removal of 12% GST on sanitary napkins, which is an essential item for every menstruating woman. Women all over the country were agitated when bindi, condom and other make-up items were exempted from GST but sanitary napkins were not.
This Union Budget, removal of GST on sanitary napkins would be one of the most anticipated moves by the Finance Minister, considering the wrath the Government has to bear by levying 12% GST on pads. Women rights activists, doctors also pointed out how levying a tax on sanitary pads is detrimental to the future of the nation, as even now, more than 20% girls drop out of schools in rural India after getting their periods because the pad is expensive and clothes or rags leave them embarrassed.
Not only that, women who cannot afford pads because of its cost, end up staying at home and losing working hours and pay. Moreover, when women below the poverty line are unable to adapt to safer measures like sanitary napkins on their periods, they resort to rags, old clothes which they reuse, and some also resort to using ash during their periods, apart from leaving them embarrassed and humiliated when these left them blood-stained, these women also risk contracting several fatal diseases for their inability to afford sanitary pads.
Currently, a majority of Indian women, especially in the rural areas are unable to afford pad, and a huge number of these women suffer from Urinary tract infection due to using unhygienic means during the days they are on their periods. Women activists and doctors and a large number of women have raised their voice and asked the Government to remove GST on sanitary napkins as it is not a luxury item but a basic requirement. Some have also said that levying a tax on Sanitary Napkins is a sign of a male-dominated society where bindi’s and makeup items are exempted from tax but not pads, which is important for women for most parts of their life. The debate on the issue has been around for quite some time and in this upcoming budget, it is expected that the problem will be addressed.