Recently, social media platforms were abuzz with the hashtag #LahuKaLagaan, quite literally translated to mean “Tax on Blood”. The hashtag and campaign was started by NGO SheSays, to raise awareness on the issue of removing taxation on menstrual hygiene products. In India, these products do not come under the category of medical necessities, and are taxed between 12% to 14%, varying from one state to another – a practice which is expected to continue even under the GST.
Ms. Sushmita Dev, a Member of Parliament from Assam, started a petition titled “Tax Free Wings” on Change.org, to the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for sanitary pads to be made tax free.
The petition was very well received, and had over 3, 00, 000 signatures. In this regard, on May 17, our director Dr Ranjana Kumari, Ms Sushmita Dev, NGO Youth Ki Awaaz and some other prominent personalities, met the Honourable Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley., who responded positively to this issue.
Only 12% of the 355 million women in India use sanitary napkins. The number is even smaller in rural areas, and overall, 70% Indian women cannot afford sanitary pads and rely on methods like cloth pads, dried leaves and newspapers.
Menstruation brings with it a host of physical problems to women, such as lethargy, immense pain, and decreased productivity, along with social stigma. However, when women and girls are subjected to unhygienic period health and disposal practices, they’re also subjected to severe health issues such as cervical cancer and Reproductive Tract Infections.
We commend the efforts of civil society organizations as well as Ms Sushmita Dev, to bring this issue into limelight, and hope that the tax on these products is abolished soon.