Campaigners refuse to throw in the towel over India’s ‘tax on blood’
In India, it is a subject usually spoken about in whispers or behind closed doors. But after a social media campaign by a local politician, Bollywood stars, comedians and writers have joined thousands of people in tweeting videos of themselves urging finance minister Arun Jaitley to scrap sales taxes on sanitary towels.
The hashtag #lahukalagaan – meaning “tax on blood” – went viral in the country on Twitter this week, as citizens urged politicians to make sanitary pads more accessible to the 312 million menstruating women who still use rags during their periods.
If the campaign succeeds, India will be one of only a handful of countries, including Kenya and Canada, to stop taxing female hygiene products, which are categorised as luxury items and subject to a 12-14% tax rate in many Indian states.
The social media campaign was started by women’s rights NGO SheSays. In parliament, a parallel campaign to push for change is being led by Sushmita Dev, an Indian MP, whose online petition calling for the tax to be scrapped collected more than 200,000 signatures. Campaigners also hope to increase awareness about menstrual hygiene in rural India, where the vast majority of women still use rags.
“There are two main reasons why [women don’t use pads or tampons],” says Dev. “Access and affordability. With this campaign, I’m hoping to make pads slightly more affordable.”
- Health Care