Nazneen takes responsibility of opting for contraception after safe abortion.

Nazneen (name changed) is a survivor of domestic violence. She earlier worked as a link worker in an Urban Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) and now works as an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA). Her husband had forced, unprotected sexual relations with her. This lead to an unwanted pregnancy.

Nazneen was not ready to become a mother. However, she was extremely scared of her husband. So she decided to access safe abortion services without letting her husband know. She was counselled about the basket of choices at FPA India’s centre. She gathered courage to discuss contraception with her husband. Despite all the pleading, he refused to use a condom. Since then, Nazneen started secretly using oral contraceptive pills. Nazneen has decided that she will choose to conceive when she is ready.

 

[Disclaimer: These are real case studies from FPA India. The names have been changed to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the concerned individuals]

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After nine pregnancies, Seema finally decided to opt for safe abortion.

Seema (name changed) was forced into sex work by her husband. She is also a peer educator in FPA India’s project for Female Sex Workers (FSW).  Seema, who conceived nine times due to unsafe sexual practises, has six children alive, and had to face two Intra-uterine foetal deaths in the last trimester. Due to this, Seema had become weak physically.

During her ninth pregnancy, she decided that she does not want to continue to term. She decided to secretly opt for safe abortion at the FPA India clinic. In her words, had she not opted for abortion, she would have had to ‘face death’. Fortunately for Seema, the FPA India clinic provided her with safe abortion services and counselled her about post-abortion contraceptives. After this experience, she started referring other women like her, to the FPA India clinic for safe abortion services.

 

[Disclaimer: These are real case studies from FPA India. The names have been changed to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the concerned individuals]

Meena’s Decision to opt for ‘Safe Abortion’

Meena (name changed) got married at age 19, with her boyfriend. Her parents-in-law were against the marriage. They started torturing her right from beginning of the marriage. Meanwhile, Meena got pregnant and continued her pregnancy to term. She gave birth to a healthy baby. Meena and her husband did not want another child soon, so they opted for condoms as a method of contraception, without the family’s knowledge. Coming from a conservative background, her mother-in-law started harassing her and suspecting infertility. However, the couple continued using contraception.

Unfortunately, Meena accidentally became pregnant due to a condom tear. But soon after, she had a miscarriage. The couple shortly tried again for another child. This time, the pregnancy went to term. Within a year of the birth of her second child, Meena conceived again because her partner did not use a condom this time. The couple did not want another child and mutually decided to terminate the pregnancy. This time, they were referred to the FPA India clinic by an outreach worker. They found FPA India’s clinic to be affordable and accessible, and could get all information and services under one roof. Meena underwent safe abortion and the couple was also counselled about post-abortion contraception.

 

[Disclaimer: These are real case studies from FPA India. The names have been changed to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the concerned individuals]

Menstrual Hygiene – A right of every woman!

Quote Panchkula - Geeta

(Translation)

GST or any other tax should not be applicable on something as essential as sanitary napkins because this makes the sanitary napkins even more difficult to afford and access. This results in the use of cloth over pads, for many women. This makes women and girls vulnerable to infections. With the recent exemption of GST on sanitary napkins, there is hope that more women will be able to afford and use sanitary napkins, than before. I hope more and women get easy access to sanitary napkins and also get the opportunity to understand more about menstrual health and hygiene from FPA India.

 

GEETA,

PANCHKULA

Support FPA India’s Initiatives for Menstrual Hygiene Management

I support the government’s initiative to exempt GST on sanitary pads. I would like to share some of my experiences at FPA India, to uphold my statement. Being a youth volunteer, I have been mentoring a group of underprivileged adolescent girls. One of them was 18 years old and did not even know what a sanitary napkin means or looks like. When I enquired about the same with her mother, she mentioned that the high price of the pads was the reason for the unfortunate reality. So, according to me, a jubilant and vigilant step is needed for the upliftment of menstrual hygiene management for underprivileged girls and women, GST exemption playing a small part it it. However, there is a long way to go and I fully support the initiative to volunteer for FPA India’s initiative to empower women and girls with information on and access to menstrual health and hygiene products.

 

TANYA KOHLI,

YOUTH VOLUNTEER,

FPA INDIA, PANCHKULA.

Exemption of Sanitary Napkins from GST: A Step towards Women Empowerment

In a much awaited step, the Finance Minister of India, Mr. Piyush Goyal announced that sanitary napkins will be exempted from GST, post the meeting of the GST Council. For a year, the sanitary napkins were taxed at 12%, attracting criticism from girls, women, feminists, and the like-minded people.

The high prices of sanitary napkins hinder girls and women from buying them. Furthermore, unaffordability of sanitary napkins compels them to settle for unhygienic alternatives like cloth and rags due to a lack of knowledge and information, making them vulnerable to infections and diseases. There is hope that the move of the government to exempt sanitary napkins from GST will be a step towards a healthier and hygienic nation. This exemption will also further the cause of education, reducing the number of dropouts of girls from school due to inaccessible hygiene products.

Family Planning Association of India has been working to provide affordable sanitary napkins and also information on menstrual health and hygiene through various programmes. This information along with the affordable GST exempt sanitary napkins will be a huge contribution to maintaining the menstrual health as well as the physical and psychological well-being of girls and women and thus resulting in their empowerment.

 

SUMAN C. PATIL, 

BRANCH EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBER (YOUTH), 

FPA INDIA, DHARWAD

Access to Sanitary Napkins – An Affordability Issue.

When girls and women cannot afford a sanitary napkin, they go for cheaper and more convenient options, that most of the times are unhygienic or unsafe. Imposing GST on sanitary napkins may have caused girls and women to use unhygienic options like reusable clothes to absorb the menstrual blood. School-going girls may have been highly affected because of this decision. Imposition of GST did not only cause unsafe practices but also hindrance in girls’ education. This may have been another reason for to drop-out of schools, affecting their personal development, economical status, and eventually their health. Girls who use inappropriate sanitary materials even when in schools, are always worried, distracted, and have the fear that their uniform/dress might get soiled and hence will be embarrassed in front of others. This can have a great negative impact on their psychological health.

Therefore, I believe that the GST exemption on sanitary napkins was a much-needed change. Now that sanitary napkins have been exempted from GST, I wish to congratulate all women and request them to use hygienic methods of managing their menstruation. Stay safe and healthy!

 

KOMALPREET KAUR,

21 YEARS,

MOHALI.

 

Ray of Hope for ‘Stigma-Free Menstrual Health’.

#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

MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT – A NECESSITY; NOT A CHOICE!

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on Saturday, 21st July, 2018, announced that sanitary napkins would be exempted from GST. Hitherto they were taxed at 12% under the one-year-old GST regime. The highly controversial “luxury tag” on sanitary napkins has finally been scrapped. This move is welcomed as a much awaited first step for economic empowerment of girls and women.

In India, there are over 355 million girls and women who menstruate. 71% of girls have no knowledge about menstruation prior to their first period and 70% of women lack access to sanitary napkins. It clearly shows that the majority of girls and women depend upon low-cost, affordable alternatives during menstruation.

Menstruation has forced young girls to stay out of school due to a lack of toilets while facing the fear of soiling their dresses and getting teased by boys. In rural areas, many girls drop out of school once they hit menarche. In this way, lack of knowledge and access to clean, affordable, and hygienic menstrual products have acted as an impediment to education of girls.

India has witnessed a 70% increase in Reproductive Tract Infection (RTI) over the years and 23% of girls drop out of school once they reach puberty. The harsh reality is that most women in India prefer to use unsafe alternatives to sanitary napkins not because they want to but because they simply cannot afford menstrual hygiene products. Therefore, they have no other option than to use unhygienic ones.

Poor menstrual hygiene affects physical, mental, and social well-being of females. Thus, this is a violation of the human right to health. Family Planning Association of India’s initiative to provide not just low-cost/affordable sanitary napkins to underprivileged girls and women, but also to provide information on menstrual health and hygiene through Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is aimed at empowerment of girls and women.

Access to menstrual hygienic products every month is neither a luxury nor a choice. It’s an absolute necessity. Applying a tax to products which are solely used by women is an indicator of institutionalised gender discrimination. GST on sanitary napkins hit women and girls, hence from the beginning, sanitary napkins should not have attracted GST.

However, the latest decision of the government is a major step in normalising menstruation as a biological process. To ensure that women across India have an access to sanitary napkins and other menstrual hygiene products, accountability from the government as well as policy changes is required. There should be sufficient allocation of funds and transparency in their disbursement to promote menstrual hygiene among women. Eco-friendly and bio-degradable supplies of menstrual hygiene products such as sanitary napkins, menstrual cups, and tampons, should be made more affordable and accessible to the women and girls of India. At the same time, information on menstrual hygiene management should also be provided, just as FPA India has always been doing.

 

ARSHPREET KAUR,

BRANCH EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBER (YOUTH),

FPA INDIA, MOHALI.

A YOUTH CHAMPION PASSIONATE ABOUT EMPOWERING GIRLS AND WOMEN.

Menstruating without fear and GST

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.

 

KHUSHI,

19 YEARS,

CHANDIGARH.