Sanitary napkins: a larger concern than GST

Garima Bora

CHENNAI, NOV 17: The recent cut in the Goods and Services Tax on some 200 items has not been welcome by all. Some women wonder why the GST has not been slashed for sanitary napkins.

“India is a country where bindis, sindoors, plastic bags and even condoms are exempted from tax but a necessary item for women’s health is not.” said Suganya, co-founder of DHAGAM Foundation, an NGO for Women in Chennai.

There is lack of awareness and education about menstrual hygiene amongst the women and girls living in slums, according to a survey conducted in Kasimedu slum by DHAGAM. A lot of the women are migrants, who live in unhygienic conditions and cannot afford good quality sanitary napkins.

The women did not have proper knowledge about the use and disposal of the sanitary napkins. Lot of times women used cloth instead of the sanitary napkins, which leads to other health problems, added Suganya.

Suganya also said the sanitary napkins provided by some government schools were of poor quality. “They need to produce reusable sanitary napkins which should be distributed free of cost in the schools,” she added.

Thideer Nagar slum near Greenways Road here, on the other hand, is at a stage where women and girls are aware about the need for menstrual hygiene.

“We used to use cloth, but now everyone use sanitary napkins like Whisper.” said Sushila, a fish vendor.

However, for a slum woman who earns a meager salary of Rs. 100 a day, sanitary napkins have become quite expensive.

Balakrishana, co-ordinator at Center for Women’s Development and Research

It is not just about GST, there are many things linked to it,” said Balakrishna, co-ordinator at Centre for Women’s Development and Research in Chennai. He talked about how parents needed to start having an open dialogue with their children and said that it was high time people stopped seeing menstruation as a “dirty” thing.

Balakrishna mentioned the case of a 12-year old girl from Tirunelveli who committed suicide after she was upbraided by her teacher in class for staining her uniform.

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday questioned the central government’s decision to impose 12 per cent tax on sanitary napkins under the GST regime saying that it was a much larger concern than just looking at the import and export duty.

The Centre tried to justify its act by saying that reducing the GST rate on sanitary napkins to nil, would result in complete denial of input tax credit to domestic manufacturers of sanitary napkins.

The court also expressed unhappiness over the absence of any women in 31-member GST Council.



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