Congress MP from Silchar constituency of Assam, Sushmita Dev, has started a petition on Change.org to propose that sanitary pads be sold without levying tax. In the petition that is addressed to Arun Jaitley, she wrote, “Women are being taxed 12 months a year, for about 39 years on a process they have no control over. How is that fair?”
In India, menstruation is still a taboo topic, both in rural and urban areas. Only a few sections of society talk about it in the open, otherwise it is spoken about only in hushed tones among families and in front of boys. The petition claims that an estimated 70 per cent of women cannot afford sanitary napkins.
Difficulty in getting access to sanitary napkins is also one of the major issues why girls drop out of schools in rural areas and urban slums.
“It is bound to have an impact on attendance of girls in schools, adding impetus to greater women participation in our workforce, which is just a meagre 21.9%. Affordability, ease of availability and accessibility needs to be at the forefront of this battle,” says the petition.
It, however, raised concern about the environmental factor and said, “As the plastic used in sanitary napkins is non-biodegradable, it leads to degradation of the environment. A minimal tax can be imposed on disposable sanitary napkins to dissuade its use on large scale in order to safeguard the environment.”
The idea is to encourage the use of pads made of cotton and others that do not make use of plastic. So when minimal tax is levied on plastic based pads, their usage will come down, therefore leading to less pollution.
She explained why it is wrong to tax sanitary napkins — “Women are being taxed 12 months a year, for about 39 years on a process they have no control over.”
Apart from the fact that it is a concern and should be looked at with sensitivity towards the women who cannot afford to buy sanitary napkins, it will also help the government in their nationwide initiatives like Beti Bachao, Beti Padao‘ and ‘Swachh Bharat‘.
The petition needs 7,500 signatures of civilians and currently 6,111 people have already supported it.
If you want to sign it too, then you can view the petition here.