By Manasi Nene
Which is a good thing, maybe? We’re glad that these basics will be taxed less, but why be taxed at all?
This is in odd contrast to items like sindoor, bindis and bangles — yes, they are essentials in the lives of most Indian women — which will not be taxed. But perhaps not as pressing as menstrual hygiene products? In contrast, some other non-taxable items are drawing books and frozen meat products.
In a country as large as ours, where half the population needs to spend exorbitantly on pads/tampons, or use alternatives like cloth pads or items made out of wood pulp, why shouldn’t hygiene products enter the lowest tax bracket? Or better yet, be untaxed, and be as cheap as possible? No, we’re not ignoring alternatives like menstrual cups, nor are we overlooking the massive mountains of waste created by other products. It’s just unfortunate that the discourse around the drawbacks of pads and tampons only comes around when women are finally asking if it’s really fair to be paying so much for something so fundamental.
Congress MP Sushmita Dev started a campaign asking Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to do away with the tax on sanitary napkins, and she was even joined by the Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. A tax reduction from 14.5 percent to 12 percent is better than nothing, yeah, but it’s still far from ideal.
What we want to ask is this. If puja items can be made tax-free, why not menstrual products? And if this question isn’t about gender, then why do bindis and sindoor get the treatment that sanitary napkins don’t? Is the idea of an unmarried woman really that scary?
Getting your first period, even if it doesn’t become a full-fledged celebration, is a rite-of-passage and shouldn’t ever have to be accompanied by any shame. This country has more than 355 million menstruating women. So then why should we have to pay extra?