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

1 / 2
India scrapped a controversial tax on sanitary pads on Saturday. (AFP)
2 / 2
Updated 21 July 2018
0

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.


Japan orders quake shock absorber maker to replace parts after fake data

Updated 12 min 36 sec ago
0

Japan orders quake shock absorber maker to replace parts after fake data

TOKYO: Officials in Japan, one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, on Thursday ordered a company that falsified data on the quality of its quake shock absorbers to replace its products in hundreds of buildings.
KYB Corp, a major producer of the devices used to reduce shaking in a quake, said on Tuesday that data related to their quality and that of products made by a subsidiary, had been falsified since 2003, and possibly even as far back as 2000.
Government officials said there was no risk that buildings would collapse as a result, even in a severe quake, but they were trying to determine how many structures were affected.
The company said at least 900 buildings around Japan had used products that could be involved in the data falsification.
The operator of the Tokyo Skytree, a 634-meter (2,080-ft) -high tower that is one of Japan’s biggest tourist attractions, said it had installed KYB products, while Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said they had been used in at least seven buildings owned by the metropolitan government.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism urged KYB to take full responsibility and determine how the falsification happened, to take steps to replace the shock absorbers and make sure it never occurs again.
“This action, which has brought deep concern to building owners and users as well as weakening public trust about safety, is extremely regrettable,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee said it had been told KYB products were used at several venues for the summer Olympics, but did not identify them or give any other details.
“We are aware that the Tokyo metropolitan government has already requested the company to inspect the products, and we will wait for further updates,” said spokesman Masa Takaya.
A Tokyo government official said it was possible KYB products had been used in the aquatics center and an arena to be used for volleyball, which are both under construction, but authorities were awaiting further information.
The most common of several types of shock absorbers used in buildings features a piston that moves inside a cylinder filled with silicone oil.
Shares of KYB ended trade down by 10.92 percent.