More than half of Britons now want to stay in EU, latest poll shows

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to attend a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 December 2017
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More than half of Britons now want to stay in EU, latest poll shows

EDINBURGH: A poll has found that 51 percent of Britons would now keep European Union membership while 41 percent want to leave the bloc, a near reversal of last year’s referendum result.
The BMG poll of 1,400 people for The Independent published on the newspaper’s website on Saturday came as Britain moves into a second phase of negotiations on exiting the EU, which will focus on trade.
The Independent said the lead for “remain” over “leave” was the biggest in any poll so far since the vote in June 2016.
But the head of polling at BMG, quoted in the Independent, said that the reason for the change was a shift in opinion among those who did not vote in last year’s referendum, while around nine in 10 “leave” and “remain” voters were unchanged in their views. The survey was carried out from December 5 to 8.
In the referendum last year, 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the EU and 48 percent voted to remain.
Mike Smithson, an election analyst who runs the www.politicalbetting.com website who is also a former Liberal Democrat politician, said on Twitter it was “the biggest lead for Remain since (the EU referendum).”
Prime Minister Theresa May this week secured an agreement with the EU to move Brexit talks on to trade and a transition pact, but some European leaders warned that negotiations, which have been arduous so far, could now become tougher.


India scraps tax on sanitary pads in boost for girls’ education

Updated 3 min 9 sec ago
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India scraps tax on sanitary pads in boost for girls’ education

  • Periods are among the leading factors for girls to drop out of school in India where 80% of women and girls are estimated by campaigners to have no access to sanitary pads.
  • Sanitary pads were taxed at 12 percent under India’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) that was launched in July 2017.

NEW DELHI: India scrapped a controversial tax on sanitary pads on Saturday, a move hailed by campaigners who say it will help more girls to go to school during their periods and boost their job prospects.
Activists say removing the tax on pads tackles one of the biggest barriers to education for girls, who are often forced to stay at home due to a lack of access to clean hygiene products, while also facing stigma and a lack of toilets in schools.
Periods are among the leading factors for girls to drop out of school in a country where four out of five women and girls are estimated by campaigners to have no access to sanitary pads.
“I am sure all mothers and sisters will be very happy to hear that sanitary pads are now 100 percent exempt from tax,” India’s interim finance minister, Piyush Goyal, told reporters at a news conference in New Delhi.
Sanitary pads were taxed at 12 percent under India’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) that was launched in July 2017.
The decision triggered protests, petitions and court cases that questioned why the government taxed pads as a luxury rather than an essential item, such as condoms, which are tax-free.
Last year, lawmaker Sushmita Dev launched a petition to demand a reduction or total removal of taxes on pads, citing that about 70 percent of women in India could not afford them.
The online petition gained more than 400,000 signatures.
“This was a most-awaited and necessary step to help girls and women to stay in school, their jobs, to practice proper menstrual hygiene,” said Surbhi Singh, founder of Sachhi Saheli, a charity that raises awareness on menstrual health.
“This will help them to grow, to show their true potential,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Indian girls and women face many challenges when they have their periods, especially in rural areas where a lack of awareness and the cost of pads mean many instead use unsanitary cloth or rags, increasing the risk of infections and disease.
Bollywood’s first film on menstrual hygiene “Padman,” starring Akshay Kumar — one of Hindi cinema’s most popular action heroes — triggered debate over the taboo subject of menstrual hygiene in India after its release earlier this year.
Kumar is at the forefront of a campaign by Niine Movement, an initiative promoting menstrual hygiene, to help increase the number of women using pads.
Amar Tulsiyan, founder of Niine Movement, called Saturday’s decision “a big win for everyone” in India, where, he said, 82 percent women and girls have no access to sanitary pads.
“The tax exemption is a massive boost,” he said.
More than a third of girls in South Asia miss school during their periods, as they lack access to toilets or pads, and many receive no education about menstruation before reaching puberty, according to a recent report by charity WaterAid and UNICEF.