The Goods and Services Council announced that sanitary napkins would be exempted from GST. They were taxed at the rate of 12 percent when GST was launched in 2017. This move to make them tax-free has come after opposition in the form of protests, campaigns, and petitions from activists.
MP Sushmita Dev petitioned in March to have sanitary napkins exempted from tax as they were an essential and not a luxury. This petition had received more than two lakh signatures. #BleedwithoutTax was started by the student wing of the Communist Party of India. They sent sanitary napkins with the slogan, “bleed without fear, bleed without tax to Arun Jaitley last year.
Beyond the recognition of the sanitary napkins as a necessity, the movement has been about fighting for better menstrual health more than anything. It was indicated in a survey that 62 percent of women use cloth during their periods. Other studies highlighted poor menstrual health in the country which led to schoolgirls dropping out. Many celebrated this decision with images of Akshay Kumar from his movie, Padman. Many are of the opinion that the prices of sanitary napkins could actually increase in order to compensate for the lack of input tax credit. This is a reasoning which should not be ignored. When asked about this, Piyush Goyal stated that the calculations showed that input tax credit on sanitary napkin was about 3 to 4 percent and the government will ensure that there is a lower price for the end product. This move could also cause the market to be flooded with Chinese goods.
As of now, it is clear that after a year of arguing, the government has finally changed its mind and considered menstrual health to be a priority. Good enough reason for us to rejoice!