By Shruti Sunderraman
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, at a press conference on November 10, announced that many items on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) taxable list would be slashed by a considerable percentage. According to a report, the GST on items taxed in the 28% slab will now be imposed on just 50 items from the earlier list of 227 items. So, many of these which were earlier taxed at 28% will now be levied 18% tax only. This includes beauty products for women like shampoos, hair dyes, hair creams and all make up and cosmetic products. Even handbags are being levied only 12% GST from the earlier 18% GST, according to the new GST protocol.
Among the many items that face tax cuts, men’s products like shaving creams and deodorants will now be levied an 18% GST as opposed to the previous 28%. But guess what essential item for women continues to be taxed at 12%? Yep, sanitary napkins.
In the entire list of tax percentage cuts for GST, which includes multiple consumer goods, machinery and defence equipment, there’s no trace of tax cuts, let alone exemption for an essential product like sanitary napkins. Sanitary pads continue sit tight with 12% in the miscellaneous category of the GST product index.
When GST was first announced earlier this year, there was argument that the tax is gendered and favours men over women. There are numerous examples to support this, the primary one being the tax levied on a crucial menstrual hygiene product like a sanitary napkin. Secondly, sindoor, a product married Hindu women use, was exempted from taxes.
Now, with the tax reduction, I was hoping the government would come to its senses and pay attention to its gendered attitude with GST. But it did no such thing. But it cut down taxes for women’s beauty products and cosmetics. This is the sindoor move all over again. Instead of recognising the need for a tax cut on an essential item like sanitary napkins, the government is adding insult to injury by trying to placate women with the beauty product tax cut. Faye D’Souza, editor of Mirror Now, tweeted her ire against the hypocrisy.
#GST lowered on beauty products but not on Sanitary napkins. #lahukalagaan
— Faye DSouza (@fayedsouza) November 10, 2017
Remember when she’d called out Jaitley for levying 18% taxes on glucose biscuits that are the primary and cheapest source of nutrition for women and their babies, living below poverty line in India? I’d hoped that the reconsideration of GST prices would mean Jaitley would address more pressing needs of women, rather than try to tell them to sit tight and look pretty with the reduced prices of beauty products and more free sindoor.
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