End use of unhygienic alternatives to sanitary pads, make pads accessible & affordable

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Menstruation Matters: The magnitude of Period Poverty in India

Women in our country still feel ashamed about one entirely natural process of their bodies! Yes, around 87% women in India are unaware about menstrual hygiene at all, and some of them do not even have knowledge about its purpose as a biological process. A recent study revealed that only 12 per cent of India’s 355 million menstruating women make use of sanitary napkins. All in all, the story is more horrifying than you could have ever imagined!

Inadequate menstrual protection makes adolescent girls (aged 12-18 years) miss 5 days of school in a month (50 days a year). Over 88% of women in our country resort to shocking alternatives like unhygienic cloth, ashes, dried leaves, cow dung, and husk sand. The the dismal state of feminine hygiene and care in India and rampant unhygienic sanitary practices leads thousands of women every year, particularly in rural areas, to critical health issues, infections, infertility, and even cancer!

The problem of lack of access to menstrual health products  has been multiplied by the affordability dilemma.  Around 70% of women say their family can't afford to buy them. On an average, women may use up to 3 pads (with a regular, non-heavy flow) a day. For a 5-day period, this implies that even some one uses a pad costing Rs. 5, the family has to spend around Rs. 75. This seemingly small amount in urban households deters most rural women whose families can’t afford pads as their monthly incomes maybe as low as Rs. 1000; a multitude of taboos around the menstruation issue and ignorance on the part of both men and women intensifies the problem all the more.

Sanitary napkins currently come under the 12% GST slab. Why GST has been levied on sanitary napkins when items like bindis and kajals are exempt, Delhi High Court has raised this question in the recent past. We must understand that sanitary pads are not a luxury for women, but a necessity which many people are not aware of!

“Women are going for tax free sanitary, but I say it should be completely free. Cut the five percent money from defence, make one bomb less and give it to women to get the sanitary napkin,”said  #Padman start Akshay Kumar recently. The movie release (postponed now till February 9) has raised the hope that deliberations and meaningful solutions around #MenstrualHygieneAwareness will reach a whole new level. It’s about time we end the use of traditional unhygienic alternatives (rags, cow dung, etc.) to sanitary pads, take a vow to ensure access of the latter to every woman in our country, and also innovate to make sanitary pads cost-effective and economical.