With India going under lockdown over the novel coronavirus, the government has brought masks and sanitisers under the schedule of the Essential Commodities Act, in order to prevent hoarding and black-marketing of these goods. While this is the need of the hour, we have forgotten the needs of 335 million people who go through the natural process of menstruation every month. Sanitary napkins and other feminine products have not yet been brought under the EC Act, which has commodities such as sugarcane, edible oils etc. These products are no less essential and needs to be made available at fair prices across the country.
But what does bringing the commodity under the Act mean? Commodities under this legislation cannot be hoarded and sold in the black market and the government also sets a cap on the price of this commodity. The reduction in hoarding would mean increased supply and over time a decrease in the prices and also ensures better accessibility in a country where 88% of women use homemade products such as cloth or old rags to act as absorbents. India’s poor record in maintaining proper sanitation and hygiene has long been a concern in public health and when the tools to deal with basic problems are available, it is important that it reaches out to every person in need of it.
Earlier when the Indian government had implemented the Goods and Services Tax, there was a 12% tax levied on tampons but due to a mass campaign against the lead by several NGOs across the country. The tax was even termed as “blood tax” and after months of petitions and court challenges, the government finally withdrew the tax. This was seen as a big win but there was a lot of work yet to be done in order to get this essential to the millions of people that needed it.
In recent times we’ve seen countries across the globe move towards making feminine hygiene products cheaper and more accessible, with Germany removing taxes on tampons to Scotland becoming the first country to make all feminine hygiene products ‘free of cost’. In a time of public health systems being tested, it is necessary to ensure our own hygiene and the government to provide the essentials for the same.
Tags : Feminine hygienic products, Essential Commodities Act, sanitary napkins, tampons, India, Scotland, Germany