Dear Government here’s all you need to know about sanitary pads and their importance over ‘Bindi’ in a woman’s life.
Goods and services tax was rolled out in the country on 1st July 2017. The new tax structure had uniformity in its implementation throughout the nation making it simpler for the people as well as the government to keep track of the taxes. The country hailed this decision of the government (like anything would change if they opposed it) as they did for demonetization and believed in the promise of a better India.
Now, out of the total population, which welcomed these decisions, almost 48.4% comprised of women. Let us assume that 30% of them menstruate each month. A very basic need of this 30% of the country’s total population is sanitary pads without which their life comes to a halt for about a week every month. One packet of sanitary pads (containing 6 pads) costs around 40 INR on an average. A woman usually makes use of 2 of such packets each month. That’s 80 INR spent only on sanitary pads every month. Most women in India can’t even afford to spend that amount of money on food let alone sanitation. The result?
Most of these women end up having reproductive health problems like reproductive tract infections, urinary tract infections, fungal infections and cervical cancer. Cervical cancer happens to kill about 72,000 women in India every year. Shocking, right?
According to statistical research, the major reasons behind an unsatisfactory menstrual hygiene are affordability and accessibility. 70% of women in India said that their families could not afford sanitary napkins which is why they had to use other means like cloth, husk, ashes, etc.
Government’s justification on this matter is far from satisfactory. Firstly, it argues that the tax on sanitary pads amounted to about 13.68% before GST while it has been lowered to 12% now. Ths 13.68% included concessional excise duty of 6% along with a 5% VAT. But VAT was only applied to certain states which means for most of the states, the tax has been doubled on sanitary napkins. Their second argument suggests that the raw material used for making these pads were taxed at a rate of 12% and 18%. This raw material only makes up for 20% of the sanitary pad while 80% of it is made up of cotton which is taxed at the rate of 5% as per GST. Thirdly, the government boasts that they have exempted small cooperatives and SHG with a turnover of Rs. 20 lakhs or less from GST. This is also not actually helping such cooperatives. A report investigating through direct communication with such SHGs suggests that they make a little more than Rs. 20 lakhs as turnover which leaves them paying the taxes anyway. So, the exemption is not helping either.
On the contrary, items of actual luxury like bindi, kajal, and sindoor are exempted from GST while sanitary pads, a very crucial necessity is taxed like any other luxury good.
In a recent interview with BBC, former actress and one of the bestselling writers of the country today, Twinkle Khanna, voiced out her opinion on the unwarranted tax slab on sanitary pads, “For some strange reason India has 12 per cent GST on sanitary pads. Which is shocking. Apparently, there are no taxes on brooms. I think they feel that women should keep their houses clean but it’s not as important to keep themselves clean.”
Delhi High Court bench has now asked the Central government as to why such a necessity was not exempted from GST. It said, “You exempt bindi, kajal, and sindoor. But you tax sanitary napkins. It’s such a necessity. Is there any explanation for it”. The court was also disappointed to see that there was not a single woman in the 31-member Goods and Services Council, “Have you discussed it with the Ministry of Women and Child Development before doing it or have you just looked at the import and export duty. This has to be done while keeping in view the larger concern.”
The government has made changes in the GST rates thrice after its implementation but there have been no alterations regarding tax on sanitary pads. Something really important to think about.