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Why making sanitary napkins tax-free isn’t going to solve the problems

Making sanitary napkins tax free: Is that all we want?
Reshu Manglik New Delhi May 28, 2017 15:09 IST
Reshu Manglik

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about making sanitary napkins tax-free. Many Indian women are protesting about government plan to tax a product that millions of women can’t do without. As per a new set of national rates set by the government, sanitary pads are set to be taxed at 12%. Thousands of people want the tax levied to be zero, as it is an indispensable part of a menstruating woman’s life. 

I agree to the fact that something as important as sanitary napkins shouldn’t be taxed. But amidst the protest which was going by the hashtag #LahuKaLagaan on Twitter, I noticed that something was amiss. Will making sanitary napkins tax-free is the ultimate solution to the problem? Perhaps, it will reduce the cost of sanitary napkins and make it more reachable to the lower sect of society. But is that all we want? 

What grabbed my attention was making these synthetic-based sanitary napkins even more accessible will generate more non-biodegradable waste in the ecosystem. Here are few reasons due to which I’m adamant on my POV that making sanitary napkins tax-free is not the ultimate solution of menstrual problems. 

  • The menstrual waste which usually includes blood-stained sanitary napkins and clothes are extremely dangerous to be handled by the garbage collectors. They are at the risk of exposing themselves to dangerous micro-organisms like E.Coli, HIV, salmonella and those who cause Hepatitis and Tetanus. 

  • Not to scare you though, mind having a look at this harsh reality? An average woman throws away 150kg of non-biodegradable absorbents every year in the form of used sanitary napkins. 
  • Plastic sanitary napkins are more of a threat to the ecosystem. How? A single disposable napkin utilises nearly 236 ml of crude oil to be made. Imagine how much of crude oil you’ll be consuming alone in your life. 
  • Apart from environmental hazard, the health impact of disposable sanitary napkins cannot be ignored. The ingredients used to make a napkin, which include, wood pulp and chlorine bleach is a potential threat to our health as well as the environment. 

  • Chlorine, which we all know, is a bleach. It releases a toxic chemical as a by-product. Some of these toxins are dioxin and furan which are carcinogenic! Imagine, our vaginas are exposed to such chemicals for long when we wear these chemical-laden disposable napkins.

What is the solution then? 

Every cloud has a silver lining, as the great men have said. This problem, too, is manageable. Switching from non-biodegradable to reusable is one such solution. And above that, it has many benefits, both to the women and the society. 

It is cheaper than the disposable counterparts and will have least impact on the environment. Cloth diapers and menstrual cups are a better option to tackle menstrual problem in the time when we’re already leaving behind too much of carbon footprint.