The Indian Government has given us a reason to rejoice by making sanitary napkins GST-free on 21st July, 2018, which was earlier under the 12% slab. Now there will be a hope of getting more affordable sanitary napkins.
Removing GST from sanitary napkins was a much needed step, as pads are not a luxury item, in fact they are the basic necessity of every girl and woman. Many girls in today’s date are still using cloth to absorb their menstrual flow. Majority of them are unaware about which kind of material to use. They lack the knowledge regarding menstrual hygiene. Many of them don’t even know the biological reason/process behind the menstrual cycle. Due to lack of the information, women consider the menstrual flow as dirty and toxic, which is entirely a myth.
Very often, girls and women are made to believe that during menstruation, they are not supposed to enter places of worship, not permitted to touch the pickle, or not allowed to sleep on the bed; all this because they are considered “impure” during those five to seven days. Why should women bear the brunt of this misconception? There is a huge need for educating our society, our women about menstrual hygiene, to eradicate all such myths.
Many girls in rural India drop-out of school because of the inconvenience they have to go through while they are on their periods. The tension of staining their uniforms, being teased by boys, feeling uncomfortable with cloth they use, are some of the reasons due which young girls are unable to get education.
In fact, getting access to affordable sanitary napkins and to have a happy and hygienic period is the right of every girl. The girls who opt for unhealthy methods of managing periods could also suffer from severe health problems. Depriving girls and women from accessing safe menstrual hygiene methods is a violation of human right to health. The act of exempting sanitary napkins from GST was possible because of many campaigns and protests lead by many social activists and organisations like FPA India.
Providing low-cost sanitary napkins is not the only solution, it will work more effectively when ‘information’ on menstrual health and hygiene will also be provided. FPA India has undertaken many such initiatives for years, along with distribution of sanitary napkins, through AEP (Adolescent Education Programmes) and CSE (Comprehensive Sexuality Education).
Menstrual hygiene and health helps girls in their socio-physiological well-being and plays an important role in their overall development and empowerment. After all “swasth rahega India, tabhi to badhega India!” (Only when the people of India are healthy, will the country make progress). India’s dream of becoming a leading nation will be fulfilled when if half of its population (49% females) get access to and affordability for basic health requirements.
Thus, removing GST from sanitary napkins is just one of the steps in the journey of making the girls and women of India, healthy and empowered.