Thursday February 20, 2020

Taxing Menstruation? GST Denies Sanitary Napkins as Essential Commodity

GST has definitely marked a cornerstone in the Indian economy, however, it has failed to recognise the basic need of a woman

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Most store owners in this market say they are unprepared for the switch to the Goods and Services Tax that will unify India into a single market because they do not have computers or internet connections. VOA

– By Naina Mishra

July 3, 2017: The revised GST rate list has yet again proved to be patricentric and ignored the natural process that leads to motherhood – “Menstruation”. With levying 12% tax on sanitary napkins, it evinced that menstrual hygiene of the 355 million women is still not the concern of the policymakers. What’s intimidating is the depiction of an Indian Woman in the society. Exemption of kumkum, sindoor, bindis, alta and bangles from tax exemplifies a picture of the ideal Indian woman as a visibly married Hindu woman in India.

In India, Menstrual hygiene still remains to be the most challenging developmental issues today. Regarded as a deep taboo, menstruation is a crafted illusion of myths and misinformation and thus inherently judged as shameful, gross and weird. Women and girls often times lack access to hygienic sanitary materials necessary for good menstrual hygiene. It is estimated that over 20 percent of girls drop out of school completely after reaching puberty.

Indirect taxation is classified into essential and luxury goods, and labeling sanitary pads as the luxury item, not admitting its essential attribute in myriads of women’s life is another critique of the revised GST rate list. The arguments on taxing sanitary pads keep on mounting that the product was not inborn or domesticated in India. Cotton rags conversely can be used as an alternative if used with discretion and washed properly. However, such basis cannot deny the access to basic menstrual sanitation facility to the women.

ALSO READ: Hindu Temple Kamakhya questions the Dominant Religious Legacies against Menstrual Blood

A study by AC Nielsen titled, “sanitary Protection reveals only 12 % of India’s 355 million women use sanitary napkins. Over 88% of women resort to unsafe alternatives like un-sanitized cloth, ashes and husk sand. Incidents of Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) are 70% more prevalent among these women. The biggest challenge to using a Sanitary Napkins in India is the affordability owing to which 88% of women use old fabric, rags or sand to manage their menstrual flow.

Lately, Delhi Commission of Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal wrote to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley: “The better half of our population has been bestowed with the gift of motherhood and in this process, all females from the tender age of 10-12 years till 45-50 years face monthly menstruation. Since menstruation is a natural phenomenon, hygiene, and proper health during this period is a natural fundamental right of each female citizen of this country. However, sanitary napkins which are critical for the health and hygiene of millions of women are presently taxed.”

Not only this, there have been similar attempts in the past by Sushmita Dev, Member of Parliament, who launched a petition to  Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for removal of tax on sanitary napkins.

Sushmita Dev with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley concerning petition

The highlights of the petition were affordability, accessibility, and availability of sanitary napkins to the Indian women. The petition deemed the tax unfair because of the underlying fact –  women being taxed 12 months a year, for about 39 years on a process they have no control over. The petition gained three lakh supporters in its due course.

The petition was also signed by Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development.

Maneka Gandhi supporting the Tax free wings petition

She stated, “I strongly believe a tax exemption for sanitary pads will also bolster the Honourable Prime Minister’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” and “Swachh Bharat” initiatives. This will also encourage more girls to continue their school education and more women to participate in the workforce.”


– by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: @Nainamishr94

Next Story

Here’s Everything you Need to Know About PCOS in Women

Ways of dealing with PCOS

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Women suffering from PCOD or PCOS may witness fluctuation in their weight. Pixabay

PCOD and PCOS is not unheard of. Three out of five women suffer from PCOS which is a lifestyle issue. Though it is not life-threatening, yet needs to be addressed right at the beginning.

Dr Vaishali Joshi, a Mumbai-based Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, says: “Not everyone who has PCOD has PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). PCOD is a part of PCOS. We can label someone as PCOS after the maturity of the body is achieved, say after the age of 18 years or so. The problem is just the tip of the iceberg. It is only likely to grow in this generation due to lack of exercise, junk food and not healthy eating.”

Elaborating, Joshi shares the symptoms of PCOS and how it changes as women grow older:

20’s age group:

Irregular periods, weight gain, acne, pimples, excess body hair.

30’s age group:

The peak of reproductive age group. Today’s generation would prioritize their education and prefer settling in their career first. Thus, women want to family plan late. There may be an issue with conceiving, early-onset diabetes and weight gain which one needs to keep in mind.

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Acne and pimples are symptoms of PCOD/PCOS in young females. Pixabay

40’s age group:

Symptoms are irregular periods, early on diabetes. There can be heavy menstrual or period problems because if someone has PCOS or irregular periods or no periods for a long time, that too can act as a precursor as cancer of the uterus or endometrial cancer. In this age group, if there is a bleeding issue, one must address PCOS or take a biopsy from the lining of the uterus to make sure that cancer is ruled out.

Menopause:

PCOS doesn’t go beyond menopause. PCOS takes place due to a hormone imbalance which is released from the ovaries. Menopause means that the ovary has stopped functioning.

The hormonal imbalance of PCOS is triggered by excess weight and hence it is imperative to stay fit and keep that scale in check.

Also Read- Here’s how Artificial Sweeteners Contribute to Type 2 Diabetes

PCOS is one of the leading causes of subfertility, that is difficulty in achieving natural conception, as it prevents egg production or ovulation which happens every monthly menstrual cycle. Fertility treatments including IVF can help. Weight loss not only helps women to start ovulating spontaneously but also helps to give good outcome to fertility treatment. (IANS)