It is strange how the human body contains 10 pints of blood, and yet bleeding about 65 ml is extortionate.
Women, Transgender and non-binary people, of reproductive age have one commonality, menstruation. With the onset of puberty, they are introduced to menstrual essentials but alas not everyone can avail them. Globally, 10-20% of taxes are levied on menstrual products. They are fundamental to personal hygiene and healthcare, yet they are treated as a luxury.
Governments are forcing people to make choices based on their economic status and availability in the local markets. In rural areas, many prefer to use cloth, bamboo, banana fiber, and water hyacinth pads. Whereas in the marginalized segment of society, the situation is dismal, people use cow dungs, old rags, wood husks, mud and newspapers. Using such inappropriate products raises important issues of hygiene. High costs, unavailability of products and scarce facilities lead to impoverished hygiene, which leads to reproductive tract infection, increased risk of cervical cancer, and many such ailments. Lack of awareness for hygiene stems from lack of education and taboo surrounding menstruation.
Internationally, the situation is bigger the market, bigger the tariff. China, being the biggest market of menstrual essentials, imposes a 13% tax. India, being second, has now scraped off the 12% tax which was exorbitant. Scotland stood as the first country to provide these products for free, understanding the need for such an essential item related to reproductive and overall health.
Access to the products in southeast Asia and Africa is difficult even today. UNICEF joined hands with countries thus initiating many programs in the west and central Africa. In India, the government announced plans to invest USD 160 million in the Suvidha initiative, a scheme to ensure proper access to sanitary napkins in rural areas. Yet only 12% of India’s menstruators use hygienic means.
Cutting taxes from the basic sanitation products and making them accessible is a powerful entry point to raise broader issues around gender equality and empowerment. Picking the cue, countries must aim to eliminate all forms of discrimination surrounding menstruation that harm someone’s physical integrity and human rights.
Written by:- Parmeet Kaur
Edited by:- Ujjwal Makin