Late last month, the government in India officially brought an end to a tax on women’s sanitary products that had been enacted in July of 2017 and was widely unpopular. Women will now be able to buy sanitary pads completely tax free in India, the result of a fierce campaign by activists who said the tax unfairly punished women and girls and put girls at an educational disadvantage because, without sanitary products, they typically have to miss a few days of school each month.
“I am sure all mothers and sisters will be very happy to hear that sanitary pads are now 100 percent exempt from tax,” India’s interim finance minister Piyush Goyal told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi announcing the news of decision. Under India’s controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST) that was introduced last year, sanitary pads were taxed at 12 percent.
Following the implementation of the new tax, an member of Parliament, Sushmita Dev, launched a petition calling for the government to roll back the tax. According to Dev, 70 percent of women in India would be unable to afford sanitary products due to the new tax. Some 400,000 signed the petition. Clearly Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government got the message. And Dev hailed the news of the tax exemption in a post on Twitter. Many other women and men, including politicians, took to social media and applauded the government’s decision to drop the tax.
I hear that sanitary napkins have been exempted from GST. I want to thank all the people who signed my petition #taxfreewings
Clearly the government had put forth frivolous arguments for one year & delayed it.
— Sushmita Dev (@sushmitadevinc) July 21, 2018
Standing by the govt who is sensitive and responsive towards #WomenEmpowerment #ThankYouModi @narendramodi @PiyushGoyalOffc @GovtOfIndia_ #GSTFreeSanitaryNapkins #GSTCouncilMeet #empoweringwomen pic.twitter.com/KgNEoshdFJ
— Devopriya (@devopriya) July 22, 2018
Big win for women across the nation!! Thank you @narendramodi ji for reducing GST on sanitary napkins to 0% (100% exemption) and ensuring good health & hygiene for women!! @PiyushGoyal pic.twitter.com/XPNfDrh2c8
— Priti Gandhi (@MrsGandhi) July 22, 2018
Being a male, I can never truly understand what the pain feels like. But I can atleast stand by their side & treat them right. Yes, they are women & they bleed. Its natural. Welcome step by the govt to exempt Sanitary Napkins from GST. Thank you @PiyushGoyalji & #ThankyouModiji. pic.twitter.com/J84kPdgOsC
— Sudeep Nagarkar (@sudeepnagarkar) July 22, 2018
“This was a most-awaited and necessary step to help girls and women to stay in school, their jobs, to practice proper menstrual hygiene,” Surbhi Singh, the founder a charity that raises awareness on menstrual health, told Reuters. “This will help them to grow, to show their true potential.”
Menstruation is widely considered a taboo in India still, and, particularly in rural areas that don’t have adequate bathroom facilities, not having access to sanitary products means many girls miss school on days when their menstruating. Others, according to Reuters, are not allowed to begin attending school until they begin having their periods.
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Read the full story at Reuters.