GST Life & Style

‘Sanitary pads should never have been taxed in the first place’

Rejoice! The GST Tax Exemption for sanitary pads will reset girls’ economic wellbeing

Rejoice! The GST Tax Exemption for sanitary pads will reset girls’ economic wellbeing   | Photo Credit: K MURALI KUMAR

How the GST exemption of sanitary pads isn’t just a social empowerment but a major economic aggrandisement for young girls, too

Down to the Paise
  • This year, the government launched the affordable Suvidha Oxo-biodegradable pads where a packet of four costs about ₹10.
  • India’s sanitary napkin market is valued at ₹4,500 crores

We all love a good saving; but when it comes to a basic necessity upon which a heavy and frankly unnecessary tax is applied, it sometimes makes us think twice about needing that particular good — and pads are thankfully no longer on this list.

This past weekend, when the 12% goods and services taxation was removed from sanitary napkins by the government, the luxury tag was also chopped off. It’s worth noting that the abolishment of this tax doesn’t apply to the menstrual cup and tampons.

Yes, the Twitter-scape was flooded by tweets from the likes of Akshay Kumar to high-ranking politicians, but it’s the girls themselves we have to really celebrate. Girls in hostels in the metro cities and in less accessible areas are rejoicing at the GST exemption.

An average packet of pads costs around ₹145. With the prior 12% taxes, the yearly spend for one girl on feminine hygiene came to around ₹2,500. Without taxation, yearly savings should come around to around ₹500— and for students, that’s considerable.

For 23 year-old city-based medical student Mini Sharma, she’s thinking about the amount of money she’s saving in the long run. “If they maintain this rule and make the move towards tampons and menstrual cups, it’ll be a good thing. See my profession, even after graduation, requires the purchasing of a lot of expensive textbooks and subscriptions to online journals for research. And the health of my period is my basic human right, I don’t feel I should pay for that.”

“Whether you’re in hostel or at home with family, this legislation is so important. I’m not in hostel anymore but I really could have used this kind of consideration from the government,” comments engineer Aarushi Dave in Delhi, “but I will be thankful that this has happened at all. It’s an example to people around the world too, that women shouldn’t have to be taxed for something they’re born with.”

Supriya Shetty shares a personal story, explaining that she got her first period in boarding school in Mumbai. “It was so difficult because while other girls my age who hadn’t gotten their period yet were buying ice creams or new clothes with their pocket money, I was trying to save for the pads,” she recalls, adding that the consideration for different cycles is an underrated move by the government.

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 05/06/20018 : Founder of Adhamya Chetana Tejeswini Ananthkumar with students at launch of Janaushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkins on the ocassion of World Environment Day which was organised by Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizeers, Government of India and Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India, in Bengaluru on June 05, 2018.

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 05/06/20018 : Founder of Adhamya Chetana Tejeswini Ananthkumar with students at launch of Janaushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkins on the ocassion of World Environment Day which was organised by Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizeers, Government of India and Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India, in Bengaluru on June 05, 2018.   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

Plus, we can always look to our period empowerment movements, who came together to show gratitude “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,” says Amar Tulsiyan, founder of NGO Niine Movement, “We live in a country where 71% of women have no knowledge of menstruation before their first period and 82% of females do not have access to sanitary napkins. Any tax on sanitary napkins would have been a big step backward.”Since the organisation’s conception, Niine Movement remains persistent in helping tackle the taboos associated with menstruation by engaging all genders and ages to step forward and join hands to promote the importance of menstrual hygiene awareness.

For Carmesi founder Tanvi Johri, the GST exemption of sanitary pads is a very welcoming step the government has taken, adding, “To think of it, sanitary pads should never have been taxed in the first place as they are an absolute necessity for every woman. And the government finally acknowledging the same, actually emboldens the resolve for everyone who’s trying to normalise periods. With respect to the economic empowerment of women after the move, I think, every rupee that a woman from the lower strata spends on herself, that cannot be used by her family, matters a lot to her. And if the tax exemption can help brands pass even a little price benefit to the consumer, it will help the cause of better accessibility to menstrual hygiene products.”

While some reports claim the scrapping of the GST may not help the finances of local makers, some brands are unconcerned. Though, one has to wonder how this will affect their business, especially given a company like Carmesi operates in the premium segment. “The people who use our product are habitual buyers of sanitary pads,” responds Tanvi, “A difference in price of a few rupees wouldn't deter or motivate them. The main reason any woman uses a particular sanitary pad in our target segment is its functionality and ease of use. So, the exemption of sanitary pads from GST is not going to affect us a lot particularly.”

Across the board, there’s a lot we can learn from this move the government has made and our girls can strive to keep an eye out for other necessary goods which are unfairly taxed too. It’s merely the first and major step of a very long road ahead.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 7:13:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/gst-exemption-of-sanitary-pads-out-of-the-red/article24502781.ece

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