#MenstrualHealth, #BleedWithoutTax, #lahukalagaanMaaf, #Sanitary, #MenstrualHygiene and so many other interesting tags are emerging and hitting on social media. One may think what will be the reason for all these comments and tags? If you think seriously about menstrual hygiene you will get a foremost decision made by 28th Goods and Service Tax (GST) council meeting. Interim Finance Minister of India, Piyush Goyal has declared this decision which has attracted many hopes.

India is a country where people are still not aware of their personal health and hygiene. Among which, ‘Menstrual Health’ is a subject that is being discussed within the four walls. This subject has remained mysterious and unknown to many adolescents, especially for girls until their first periods. According to some of the surveys made, almost 70% of women and girls in India are not able to afford the menstrual hygiene products. There are heaps of reasons for this unawareness, among which the affordability of the products is one.  Sanitary napkins plays a vital role and help a woman to maintain her health during periods. The importance of menstruation in a woman’s life need not be reiterated here. It is known that periods are natural and especially during periods, a woman has the right to maintain her health.

After various controversial comments, actions, and cases filed in High Court and Supreme Court, the government has made sanitary napkins GST-free.  This announcement has attracted many hopes for the development in women’s health and hygiene, in the country.  Earlier sanitary napkins were taxed at 12% under GST, but as this is not a luxury product, many activists and social organisations such as Family Planning Association of India had raised their voice to make sanitary napkins tax-free. Family Planning products like the condom have already been made tax-free and on that basis, 12% tax on sanitary napkins was also questioned. Many girls in rural India, tend to also drop-out of schools due to periods, which may ultimately result in a social loss for the country.

Till date, many women and girls use reusable cloth or a cotton swab, or even unhygienic materials to absorb the bleeding during their periods for not being able to afford sanitary napkins. Sometimes girls and women are hardly aware of what to use during their periods to absorb the bleeding. These signs indicate the poor menstrual hygiene and conservative mentality related to it in our society which causes a severe physical, mental, and social effect on girls and women.

Government of India’s decision to exempt GST on sanitary napkins has been a big win for all the individuals and organisations such as FPA India. FPA India has always been supportive of and insistent on menstrual health and hygiene management, and has taken initiatives to provide not only low-cost sanitary napkins to underprivileged girls and women but also information on menstrual health and hygiene through various programmes such as Adolescents Education Program Plus (AEP+), Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) Sessions, special service sessions, etc.

The decision made by the GST Council to exempt sanitary napkins from GST will be beneficial for the entire community. Let us hope to get the sanitary napkins and better menstrual health and hygiene facilities to women and girls of underprivileged backgrounds. With this decision, a ray to develop a healthy India has emerged, so let’s walk towards it, to meet the ambitions, aims, and happiness in our society.

 

ROHAN PASTE,

CENTRAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (CEC) MEMBER (YOUTH),

FAMILY PLANNING ASSOCIATION OF INDIA, MUMBAI

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