This Saturday, many started their weekends congratulating the Modi government for scrapping GST on sanitary napkins. The Goods and Services Council reduced the previous 12% GST on these products to the present 0%. After a year of protests, pleas and campaigns about the same, the government’s decision of realising this demand is a progressive step for our country.
Besides menstrual products being a luxury for a large section of our population, the lack of awareness about what is available, — along with a disconnect that women have with their bodies (many reproductive diseases in India are because of poor menstrual hygiene) makes it evident that we still have a long way to go. A student of St. Stephens Delhi University, who was extremely proud of the new GST development, says, “But it is still not addressing that there are many alternatives to the common sanitary napkins, for example menstrual cups, cloth pads exist too, and there is need for educating the masses about it.”
This raises an important point. Sustainable menstruation is something that is yet to be addressed by the government — in a time of plastic bans and grave environmental concerns the unsustainability of plastic pads is something that people are still not educated about. A campaign run by Green The Red, an organisation promoting sustainable menstrual products all over the country had previously launched a petition for tax cuts on only sustainable products — quoting the environmental harm plastic pads take part in as well as a waste management crisis that arises due to this. “Indian cities are burdened with the overwhelming amounts of mismanaged waste, most of it being mixed and sanitary waste. Plastics in the disposable sanitary napkins persist for 800 years in landfill,” says co-founder of SheCup, Manish Malani, adding, “While the no tax is a welcome change, there is still no specific mention of other menstrual products. We also talk about Swachh Bharat today so I thought that should’ve been imperative.”
It is evident that sustainability should go hand in hand with recognising the importance of menstrual hygiene and removing the taboo that has been attached to it. Niine movement, a 5-year plan that focuses on the latter has shown their appreciation for the government’s ability to address the problem of tax on sanitary napkins. Mr Amar Tulsiyan, founder of the Niine Movement said, “The government’s decision to exempt a basic hygiene product like the sanitary napkin from GST is a very big win for everyone across the country. We live in a country where 71 per cent women have no knowledge of menstruation before their first period and 82 per cent females do not have access to sanitary napkins. Any tax on sanitary napkins would have been a big step backward. The tax exemption is a massive boost for our initiative to raise awareness of menstruation hygiene and to help increase accessibility and usage of sanitary napkins across the country.”