India Cuts Sanitary Product Tax In Favor Of Girls’ Education

India cuts blood tax for girls education
Stringer / Getty Images

India cut their controversial tax on sanitary pads enabling girls to afford attending school during their periods, boosting chances of them finding jobs after school.

Many activists said removing the high tax knocked down one of the largest barriers to education for young women. Campaigners said the high tax makes them even more unaffordable in a country where four out of five women and girls have no access to sanitary items.

Surbhi Singth, founder of the menstrual health awareness charity Sachhi Saheli, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the tax cut will help girls grow to their true potential.

“This was a most-awaited and necessary step to help girls and women to stay in school, their jobs, to practice proper menstrual hygiene.”

The high prices meant girls unable to afford clean hygiene products, combined with the large stigma around feminine hygiene and the lack of toilets in schools, were left without the option of attending school during their period. According to a recent report by WaterAid and UNICEF, more than a third of girls miss school during their periods because they lack access to toilets and pads. Often, girls receive no education about menstruation before reaching puberty.

The tax cut news is welcomed by campaigners who were recently petitioning against the 12 percent tax launched in July 2017, known as Lahu ka Lagaan in Hindi, meaning “blood tax.”

The decision to tax sanitary products led to protests, petitions, and court cases which questioned why the India government taxed sanitary products as a luxury rather than an essential item. The same government deemed condoms an essential item, therefore they are tax-free.

Period poverty is affecting women and girls world-wide. The UK’s blood tax is at 5 percent, seemingly low in comparison but according to Charity Plan International UK one in 10 disadvantaged girls in the UK, below the age of 21, still cannot afford sanitary products. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia is currently campaigning against a 10 percent tax on tampons and sanitary pads with an online petition called ‘Stop Taxing My Period’ founded by Sydney University student, Subeta Vimalarajah.

“Taxing Australian’s for getting their period isn’t just sexist,” Vimalarajah said. “It is fundamentally unfair.”

As of March 2018, nine U.S states exempted menstrual products from their sales tax and seven introduced legislation aiming to do the same, according to NPR.

Women around the world continue to rise up to fight sanitary product tax in hopes that one day sanitary items will be seen as a necessity and not a luxury.