The campaign Lahu Ka Lagaan is a movement to get the Government of India to make sanitary napkins tax-free. Started by the non-profit She Says, the campaign now has the support of notable names from the entertainment industry, such as singer Vishal Dadlani, actor Aditi Rao Hydari, television personalities Shenaz Treasury (formerly known as Shenaz Treasurywala) and Cyrus Broacha, and comedians Mallika Dua and Rohan Joshi.
Nearly 88% of women use dry leaves, wood shavings, plastic and old fabrics, because they can’t afford napkins: Krutika Pursnani
“Nearly 88 per cent of women [in India] use dry leaves, wood shavings, plastic and old fabrics, because they can’t afford napkins. Due to this, reproductive tract infections are 70 per cent more common in women, and 27 per cent of all cervical cancer deaths happen in India,” explains Krutika Pursnani, outreach director for She Says.
Bollywood support to the campaign comes at a time when women’s sanitary issues are gaining ground globally, from the protest against tampon tax in the West to the Akshay Kumar-starrer Padman (on sanitary napkins for village women). The veil of secrecy has been lifted.
“I’m glad that the larger issue of menstrual health is finally being addressed through this campaign. I fully support it,” says actor Gul Panag.
Sanitary napkins are a necessity for women; not something to be treated as a luxury item: Vishal Dadlani
“Sanitary napkins are a necessity for women; not something to be treated as a luxury item. The government should consider that we have a vast female population, of which a major chunk is facing severe health issues due to the lack of access [to napkins]. It’s crucial that the tax is dropped,” says Dadlani.
Sanitary napkins are a thing that government should be giving gratis as a service: Cyrus Broacha
Broacha, in his inimitable manner, jokes that one day there should be tax-free shaves too, but says on a more serious vein that this is a bigger battle that needs to be fought first. “I had no idea about the campaign because I haven’t started using sanitary napkins yet. But when you think about it, [the tax] makes no sense at all. Sanitary napkins are a thing that government should be giving gratis as a service,” says Broacha.
Actor Taapsee Pannu is of the belief that not just for women, but sanitary products for men should also be tax exempt. “If sanitary napkins are to be made tax-free, a lot of other hygiene [products] should also be tax-free. These should be things that concern both the genders,” she says.
To some celebrities, the news that sanitary napkin is taxed at all is a surprise. “I’m surprised to learn [about this]. Such taxes should absolutely be removed,” says actor Gulshan Grover.
Recently, a similar request to make sanitary towels tax free was made to Jaitley by Sushmita Dev, MP from Silchar. Last month, in March, she started an online petition on Change.org, which has crossed 264,752 signatures.Talking about her petition, Dev says, “It was the right time to start this petition as the GST bill (Goods and Service Tax) is about to be implemented and they’re deciding the tax slabs, so I am hoping that they will look into my request. And since affordability has a major effect on accessibility, removing the tax will definitely improve the situation.”