By Sharanya Gopinathan
When the Delhi government announced the Budget for 2017-18 yesterday, they mentioned something that made us happy. Sanitary napkins that cost Rs. 20 will now be made tax free, while those that cost more will now be taxed at 5 percent instead of the earlier 12.5 percent.
Outside of Delhi, it looks like sanitary napkins are to be taxed at an incredible 14 percent under the Goods and Services Tax system. Which seems crazy to us, because sanitary napkins are a necessity, not a luxury that women should be exclusively taxed for. The Congress party claims to be against the move of taxing sanitary napkins, and several members, including Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi and MP Sushmita Dev, who’ve all called for sanitary napkins not to be taxed at all.
India isn’t the only country that’s been wrestling with this idea. Britain’s “tampon tax” has been in the news for years now. In 2015, Chancellor George Osbourne announced that revenue collected from the so-called tampon tax would be earmarked for spending on women’s charities. 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, meaning that British women continue to pay the “tampon tax”, proceeds to which go to women’s charities. A lot of people find this uniquely galling, as the protection of women from violence should be a State concern and responsibility, not a cause that women should pay for themselves through their periods.