Sushmita Dev, Member Of Parliament has started a petition addressed to Mr. Arun Jaitely, Minister of Finance, India that aims at making sanitary napkins tax free. This is one of those petitions that is all worth a sign; irrespective of whether you are a male or female, of whether it affects you or not. And in case the urgency of it is not understood, here’s a brief why.
Why is it important?
Menstrual cycle is the process of the uterus forming a thick blood lining to allow the egg (formed during ovulation) to nurture in case it is fertilized (i.e. in case a woman gets pregnant), and when it is not, the uterus sheds the blood lining leading to bleeding from the vagina.
Since, the bleeding is inconsistent, women have to wear a sanitary napkin or a tampon at all times for 5-6 days of the cycle. Also keeping in mind the sanitary conditions, pads have to be changed 3-4 times a day. But the truth is that only about 12% of the 355 million women get access or use sanitary napkins.
In rural areas, due to the high cost of pads, women use other stuff such as clothes, cotton, rags, old saris etc. Rags are washed and used several times a day and there is usually no private place to change and clean the them and often no safe water and soap to wash them properly. A culture of shame and taboo forces them to seek for well hidden places even in their homes to dry the rags. These places are often damp, dark and unhealthy. This practice is responsible for a significant proportion of illness and infection associated with female reproductive health. Rags that are unclean, cause urinary and vaginal infection that are often left untreated.
There have been some reports from the rural areas about women using ashes or sand as sanitary napkins. The patriarchal chains along with the highly priced sanitary napkins have made it impossible for women to get the necessary and basic health care. In India, an estimated 70% of women cannot afford sanitary napkins. It is shameful to say that the government still charges ‘luxury’ tax of 14% on it.
What you can do about it?
Start talking about it, recognise the problem. We live in urban areas and tend to ignore this problem as something that comes with the societal norms, however outside the urban boundaries this problem has turned into a serious issue of degrading women health and well being- physically, mentally and emotionally.
Most of the times, problems such as these are not addressed enough owing to the taboo surrounding it but removing the ‘awkwardness’ and the reason to be shy when talking about it will go a long way in helping make people aware of the problem.
By signing the petition, maybe we’re taking a very little step towards what our goal is but for now, maybe that is enough. Maybe this is a start.
If you’re a female, please talk about this with your male friends, let them know and educate them as much as you can. Remove the shyness of having a conversation about it so that this becomes important. If you are a guy, the next time someone talks about it, please listen and try to understand. Don’t dismiss it as something that doesn’t affect you.
You can sign the petition and share it as much as you can, let this news prevail for good. The conversation does not end at the signing of this petition, but here it begins! Come on, fellow men and women, you have nothing to lose but the patriarchal chains.
About the Author:
Constantly shifting from super energetic to unimaginably lazy while watching Sherlock episodes all day. I’m an enthusiast for good food, great music, enthralling conversations and of course, beautiful literature. Trying to make a difference, one word and one place at a time.