Delhi government is being praised for it’s progressive and woman friendly budget. It has made sanitary napkins worth Rs 20 completely tax free. For napkins above Rs 20, the government has slashed the value added tax to 5 per cent from over 12 per cent. This will considerably bring down the price of sanitary napkins in Delhi. But the same move brings us to the next level question. Why not make sanitary napkins available completely free of cost?
Such a demand might agitate some of you. You might complain:”What is wrong with women these days? They want reserved seats in buses and metro, reservation in jobs and Parliament. And now they want sanitary napkins for free. At this rate the day is not far when they will ask for their lipstick and mascara all for free.”
Well, well, well. For all the agitated people out there, the demand for free sanitary napkins is a completely valid one. Sanitary napkins should be free for the simple reason that women don’t have the choice of not having periods. It is an integral part of our existence and biological process. No woman rich or poor, or middle-class, working or homemaker should have to pay for sanitary napkins. Because periods or the menstrual cycle is a biological condition we cannot avoid.
Second, a good pack of sanitary napkin in a poor household can actually be a cause of huge financial strain. A woman in her mid thirties with two daughters who have attained puberty would require at least a set of 30 napkins a month. If you went to search online for good quality napkins, you would find nothing is available for anything less than Rs 100 per packet. For a poor family that’s a lot of money. Often they resort to using cloth to save money which is extremely unhygienic.
Young girls avoid going to schools because of this. Free napkins would ensure young girls don’t grow up hating those days of their life as it forces them to stay away from things they love doing. Modern feminists are taking on period taboos and talking openly about their biological cycle to increase it’s awareness among both men and women. This discourse is extremely important to foster a society that understands a woman’s bodies better. As we fight the notion of impurity associated with periods, we should also campaign to make sure that women in every little village in our country has access to free and good quality sanitary napkins.