On the Eve of ‘Pad Man,’ An Open Letter to the Government about Menstruation
By Ruku Taneja
Hey, Government of India. Long time, no chat.
With Akshay Kumar’s Pad Man releasing tomorrow, I’ve got menstruation on my mind — and a proposal for you.
Before we begin, I’d like to make it clear that in an ideal world, I’d want what some Gwalior students have had the courage to ask for: free pads for everyone. I mean, they are even sending you their demands written on sanitary napkins, and I am completely here for it. (Shock and awe, ladies. Shock and awe. Also, can we be best friends?)
However, I have lived long and hard enough to realize that the world is far from ideal, and I, too, can play the game of capitalism and economics. So, if you are going to, for whatever reason, charge a luxury Goods and Services Tax (GST) on sanitary napkins — then tax me, not them.
Who do I mean by ‘them,’ you ask? Oh, just the 20% of girls who drop out of school in rural India after getting their periods because pads are too expensive and stained clothes or dirty rags are simply too embarrassing to walk around in. Or the 88% of Indian women who do not have access to sanitary pads due to a lack of awareness and high costs.
Yes — they are the ones for whom I am willing to pay the tax.
Hear me out. Think of my scheme like the slightly liberal but very promising brainchild of progressive taxing and the UK benefits system. Why don’t we just have the higher income individuals (like me or every other privileged person I know) pay the pad GST (because it doesn’t affect our mundane 9/5 lives as much) — and then you, government, can use our sorta hard-earned money to offer sanitary napkins at the lowest possible rates — or, dare I say it, for free — to the women and households who really need it.
Radical? I think not. Reasonable? I mean, you’ve made it clear this is the best I can offer you as a lobbying feminist.
BUT, if you still think having subsidized menstrual products is more crazy than making bindis tax-free, then you can always use our money to install and promote in schools and villages machines like the one shown in Akshay Kumar’s upcoming movie, Pad Man. At least this way, the cost of sanitary pads will go down, regardless of your intentions or discomfort with lady-blood.
Arunachalam Muruganantham, the real-life man portrayed by Akshay Kumar in Pad Man, has managed to make sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads. So, why not promote the mechanism that produces this miracle product and bring awareness to it in every village in India? (Swachh bharat — the vagina edition!)
In case no one at the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha knows about the real Pad Man, or their constituents’ frustration with GST on sanitary napkins — here’s the deal: The machine costs about Rs. 65,000 (please feel free to tax me for that, too; I know your multinational corporate agenda). And by installing them, you can also claim you’re creating jobs (which we know is more important to you than actually helping women get the hygiene products that allows them to fill said jobs).
I can’t deal with anyone bleeding for days every month, with no means to control or hide the 30-40 milliliters of blood flowing out of their body. I hope, at least, 11% of the Lok Sabha and 10.6% of the Rajya Sabha, can’t deal with it, too.