Health & Wellness, Lifestyle

#Period. My Five Days of Luxury (sic!)

Half the population in the world needs sanitary napkins for a week every month for atleast 30-35 years of their life. It is a necessity, not a luxury. It is not a choice to get periods every month, it’s how our bodies have been designed. It is very alarming that only 12% of India’s 335 million adult women can afford sanitary pads. Then why the Indian government thinks that this is a luxury and levies a newly formed GST of 12% on sanitary napkins making them unaffordable?

Instead of breaking the taboo around the usage of sanitary napkins, this move by the government has made them more unapproachable. Because of the inadequate protection during menstruation in the villages, small towns and cities, adolescent girls miss 5 days of school every month totalling to approximately 50 days a year.

The fact of the matter is that before GST, sanitary napkins had a tax of 13%. Earlier, there were speculations that sanitary napkins might become tax-free under GST. However, after the announcement of GST of 12%, many NGOs expressed their concern.


In urban markets, a lot of companies are now making and selling cloth napkins in the name of sustainability and eco-friendliness. Although, they still have a long road ahead to be accepted as a norm with the millennial women owing to hygiene, maintenance and ease of use during office hours. Another product that is trying to bring a revolution in the menstruation protection is menstruation cup. The cup is designed in a way that the user has to insert it in the vagina so that the blood gets collected in the cup. These cups have to be emptied and cleaned from time to time. Sounds like an effort? Well, maybe or maybe not!


Let’s take a look at the “Tampon Tax” paid in few of the countries in the world:

Australia – In Australia, sanitary products attract the 10% Goods and Services tax (GST).

UK – In UK, 5% VAT is applicable on sanitary products

USA – In the US, it varies between states. States that place sales tax on tampons and other sanitary products include California, New York and Wisconsin. States where feminine hygiene products are exempted include Maine, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

As much as the high price of sanitary napkins is a concern, distribution also something to think about. However, the picture isn’t that bad.

We know that in rural India, most prevalent means of protection during periods is cloth napkin. However, a recent survey conducted in 2015-16 by NFHS (National Family Health Survey) gives a bright and better picture. As per the survey,  the number of women using hygienic means of managing menstruation in India is at 78% in urban areas, 48% in rural areas and 58% overall. 

Today, nearly 6 out of 10 women in India have access to disposable sanitary napkins. According to this survey, locally prepared napkins, sanitary napkins and tampons are considered as hygienic methods of protection. These numbers look promising and show a better picture of our society accepting and using more hygienic means of protection during periods.


Now a very pertinent question arises, why a thing of necessity is included under the category of luxury items? According to SheSays India, an NGO that has taken an initiative of approaching and requesting the government for reducing the GST states that merely 12% of India’s total female population has access to sanitary napkins. Which means, the remaining 88% women are either surviving on the traditional methods or have no access to any such means of protection during menstruation. Maybe it’s this disparity that makes sanitary napkins look like a luxury item when they are an inevitable necessity.

The unavoidable expense attached to the menstrual hygiene products is as unavoidable as the menstruation itself. Lethargy, immense pain, and decreased productivity are some facets of menstruation, but when women and girls are subjected to unhygienic period health and disposal practices, they’re also subjected to the perils of cervical cancer and Urinary or Reproductive Tract Infections.

If condoms can be made tax free, then why not sanitary napkins and tampons?


Sex is a choice, periods are not! Period.

This blog is a part of a blog-train written on several topics pertaining to Women Health and Wellness. The next blog in this series will be written by Shalu who blogs at The Dreamer Mum. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for some interesting and informative brew.


-Pretty Mumma

69 thoughts on “#Period. My Five Days of Luxury (sic!)

  1. Wow. A must read. Taxing pads are not fare, especially when around 40-50% can only afford it. More girls would be forced to use cloth ones, which is not good for long hours.

  2. Lack of access to menstrual products is a huge problem all over the world. Even in a place like the US, some women (the homeless, low income, etc.) do not have adequate access. Having period resources should be a right, not a privilege.

    1. That is so sad. At one side the govt wants women liberation, equality and rights, on the other hand they can not even provide our basic need at a lesser price. It’s appaling.

  3. What a relevant topic .. I agree surbhi that this tax is definitely going to make life for girls in rural areas if not difficult .. a whole lot more uncomfortable..

  4. This is such a great topic, you have written… This is really disgusting that we still have to pay tax on sanitary napkins… Government should rethink on this dicission…

  5. I have never understood why there is a tax on sanity napkins. It is a natural occurrence for women and the fact that we are essentially punished for something we can’t control is absurd.

  6. I’m here in the US, in New Jersey. I think (but my memory is a bit hazy since it was a long time ago) that they did try taxing certain paper goods like feminine hygiene products but repealed it. But I could be mistaken.

  7. Wow this is crazy. Something some of us take for granted running to the store to get others are missing school due to it. Very sad world we live in.

  8. It frustrates me to no end that women don’t all have access to this and to add to that – it’s taxed! We don’t have a choice. It’s a basic need in my opinion…

  9. I had a hysterectomy. While most people hated to get one that I know who have had one, I was the opposite. I was so so so glad to get one, and hurrah for no more pads too. 😉

    1. Wow!! So brave. I haven’t read much about it. Reading your comment intrigued me more. I am going to research and maybe write something on it. Thank you for reading 🙂

  10. Since I came to know the Sanitry Napkin has come under Tax slab. My thought is the girls who comes from Lower class will naver have sanitry pads accesible. your post is touching the cord.

  11. This is outrageous! Girls and women should be demonstrating on the streets in India. It is unconscionable that a tax is levied on such a necessary item.

  12. I think it’s outrageous that we have to pay for these things period… never mind the tax! Women don’t control our periods and as such, these things should be made available to all women for free.
    My cousin does art shows where she has people donate pads, tampons, and menstrual cups. It’s a fantastic initiative and she donates all of the goods to women’s shelters in her city.

    1. That’s amazing!! There a few NGOs here as well who work towards providing free or cheap means of protection during menstruation. But a major action has to be taken by the government to make it 100% accessible. Thank you for reading!

  13. Such an informative post, its the time when sanitary napkins should be made Free of taxes and with subsidy in rural & slum areas to support hygiene and awareness. Need to raise voices against the taxes for this basic necessity.

  14. Thanks so much for the information. This is such a hush hush subject but really more women need to be aware of their options and have access to safe and affordable monthly care. Great read.

  15. This is shocking! Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue! I can’t believe that in the modern world we are still so backwards about women’s health.

  16. Thanks for shedding light on this topic… these types of items should never have an increased tax rate!!!

  17. Brava, my dear! A wonderful post bringing light on an important issue. Just another item on the long list of things that women have to deal with for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever.

  18. I had no idea about any of this: the taxes, the limited access to sanitary napkins and how it effects school days and it’s SO UNFAIR!! Glad you are fighting the good fight and hopefully changes will happen.

  19. It is such a first necessity product. It should be less expensive and it should not be taxable. Every women in the world, rich or poor, will need those for many years.

  20. It infuriates me that women have to fight for things like this. I live in NJ so many of these products aren’t taxed in my state, but I had no idea other places carried such high tax rates on personal care items. Thank you for bringing awareness to this! Change has to come… women have to rise up and shout out about this! Thank you for using your voice.

  21. Thank you for putting together all of this research! I hate the ‘luxury’ classification also. There is nothing luxurious about basic hygiene.

  22. This is a very sensitive issue … I really do not find any reason to make such a decision in the country like India where most of the people are not so aware of hygiene. every year thousands (it can be more) of women die in our country only because of vaginal infection. Women and girls need to change their sanitary napkins three or four times a day during the period, especially in the first three days and those days are now really “days of luxury”.

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