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New sanitary pad tax exposes India’s archaic period taboos

In a shock transfer, the just lately handed Global Sales Tax (GST) invoice — which brings all of India underneath a single tax fee for the primary time — positioned sanitary pads within the decrease center 12% bracket.

The 12% quantity is ironic, as a result of in response to a 2011 research by AC Nielsen, solely 12% of India’s 335 million grownup women can afford sanitary pads.

A 12% tax on sanitary pads is an enchancment from the sooner proposal of 18%, however comes as a shock since sindoor– the purple powder utilized to a married Hindu lady’s scalp, bangles and bindis (the dot motif used to adorn a lady’s brow) — has been bracketed as “essential” and subsequently exempt from tax.

Of the 4 tax brackets, the bottom 5% tax fee has been utilized to gadgets of mass consumption, whereas the very best of 28% to luxurious gadgets. Everything else is clubbed into the 12% and 15% brackets.

Cow dung sanitary pads

The Indian authorities’s apathy and utter ignorance of women’s health points is deeply regarding.

Most women in India (88%) nonetheless use scraps of fabric, newspaper, ash, wooden shavings, dried leaves, hay and even cow dung — principally the most cost effective, most absorbent materials that they will lay their arms on.
Incidents of reproductive tract infections (RTI’s) are 70% extra widespread amongst women who don’t use sanitary pads than those that do. Around 64% of gynecologists consider that using sanitary pads scale back the danger of cervical most cancers, in response to the AC Nielsen research.

Furthermore, due to the immobility that utilizing paper/material/cow dung imposes on them, it’s common apply for women to drop out of faculty for the week of their period.

According to the AC Nielsen research, insufficient menstrual safety signifies that adolescent women miss on common 5 days of faculty in a month (50 days a yr).

It is taken into account taboo for many women in India to work, go to temples, enter communal bathing areas or kitchens throughout their durations.

Lack of consciousness

At the guts of the matter is the lack of information amongst each males and women.

In 2010, the federal government launched the primary part of the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme (MHS) introducing sponsored sanitary pads referred to as “Free days” priced at 7.50 rupees ($zero.11) for a pack of six. Typically, sanitary pads value between 5 rupees ($zero.08) and 12 rupees ($zero.20) every.

The scheme failed on account of irregular provide and high quality of the pads.

According to conversations that I’ve had with women in pilot villages of the MHS, the low high quality of the federal government sanitary pads, meant that options — made with material, hay and even cow dung muffins — have been typically thought-about extra snug. Women additionally spoke of the issue of disposal of conspicuous sanitary pads.

Members of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) make low cost sanitary pads at their facility in Ahmedabad on September 3, 2012.

Shirking from the topic

While the tax imposed on sanitary pads is definitely an indication of India’s inherent patriarchy, it isn’t simply the lads who’re responsible. Instead of shirking from the topic, Indian women too want to talk up.

Ever since we have been little women, we now have been taught to be embarrassed about our durations, to by no means discuss our month-to-month “curse,” to cover sanitary pads up our sleeves.

I do know so many married males, who reside with wives, moms and daughters, but have by no means seen a sanitary pad of their lives. This isn’t just their fault, additionally it is ours — for permitting ourselves to be a part of a tradition that punishes women for merely having their period.

According to main gynecologist Malvika Sabharwal who runs Jeewan Mala Hospital in New Delhi India, it’s a disgrace that the federal government is imposing such a tax on sanitary pads particularly when utilization amongst women is already so low.

Even in city facilities like Delhi, taboos round menstruation forestall women from speaking about issues after which making an attempt to cover something associated to their period, together with sanitary pads.

“It is this unhealthy attitude of shame which prevents us from progressing towards more positive change in menstrual hygiene,” says Sabharwa.

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The taxation of sanitary pads is a place to begin of a much-needed dialog and deeper cultural change on menstruation and extra.

India is lagging behind the curve.

In the West, women have moved on from the sanitary pad to the tampon– and although tampons are extra hygienic, less expensive, extra handy and simpler to dispose, the sale of tampons in India is negligible as a result of Indian women are discouraged from utilizing as a consequence of cultural myths associated to virginity and the tampon.

Women of all ages and at each rung of society will endure if we stay silent.

At the top, it’s as much as us women to interrupt the archaic and pointless taboos that encompass our durations.

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