‘Luxury tax’ : A Subtle Form of Exploitation of Women | Sneha Jha

In a society already full of myth and misconceptions about menstruation, period is a big taboo. From all the restrictions imposed on young girls since their onset of period to the bodily torture mother nature has given to women, period is already really tough. And as if it was not enough heavy amount of tax is imposed on menstrual products.

It has even been classified as a ‘luxury item’ in the budget of Nepal. Find me, a single woman who enjoys their period time as luxurious days and finds the basic element of a feminine life as luxurious product. I feel like every woman has at least felt once as why were they not born as a boy, just so they could avoid the torturous time of period and imagine placing financial burden on top of that.

According to SCOPING REVIEW AND PRELIMINARY MAPPING Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management in Nepal (pp. 1-96). Conducted by Population Services International Nepal, 83 percent of menstruating individuals face some form of restriction or exclusion during their menstrual cycle in Nepal. Nepal goes as far as to have some evil practices like Chaupadi pratha where women are made to stay away from house in a cowshed or a make-shift hut while they are menstruating. There is also a practice of calling a menstruating woman as ‘Nachune or Para sareki’ which basically translates to being untouchable.

 And transcending all these already existing problems upon Nepalese women; calling menstrual items a luxury product is almost an insult to the women community and the motherhood because not even a single second of using menstrual products feels luxurious and this is said by an experience.

Mother nature has heavily imposed physical and mental stress of menstruation. Society tops it off with many varied taboos and if that was not enough, people in power have imposed 13% value added tax and 5% production tax on menstrual products. 13% VAT might sound that it is nothing but the same percentage restricts so many younger girls an approach to a basic item which results into the menstrual products actually becoming a luxury product as the government likes to call it. The constitution affirms, as a fundamental right under Article 38(2), the Rights of Women and includes the right to safe motherhood and reproductive health as part of this right. But the high amount of taxes placed on such products seems to lead to a far-fetched idea of safe motherhood and reproductive health.

According to the Department of Customs, Nepal imported 1.73 million kilograms of sanitary pads worth Rs 1.05 billion in the fiscal year 2020/21. Out of which, the government pocketed over Rs 300 million in taxes. This act is almost shameful because this is exploiting women in multiple of ways.

I am 20-year-old, employed who can take care of her own expenses but even I find it very baffling to pay heavy amount of price for a product just to bleed and dispose it. But I don’t have a choice do I? An average sanitary napkin has 6 pieces of pad. In average a woman bleeds for 5 to 7 days. To keep our reproductive health as well as sanitation healthy, it is suggested that one should change their pad every 4 to 5 hours.

That means even 3 packets of sanitary napkin might not be enough if I have to change periodically. (Pun intended). As a person living in capital city who can take care of her expenses, I feel agitated to pay such high amount of money every month. Now imagine the condition of the women in rural areas who are not financially independent. Why would an individual from rural area use such costly ‘luxury goods’ instead of other unsafe options like reusing cotton cloth, bundled straw etc. if the price is so far-fetched? All those awareness programs about reproductive health goes to waste if the price itself is not affordable. Distributing one packet of sanitary pad in one blue moon does not encourage women to use it. The price should be economical for everyone to be able to buy it easily.

Nepalese government even has a well-planned dignified menstruation policy that works to create an environment where menstruation is cheap and accessible to all but defies their own policy by inflicting the heavy taxation. The policy also encourages the production of menstrual products here in Nepal. It’s time the people at power think of ways to gain money from other sectors than the blood money. It’s a natural cycle that continues the life in this earth, so it is a responsibility of every human being to make period a comfortable, secure and safe experience.

Period is taxing in itself. Professor of reproductive health at University College London, John Guillebaud, told Quartz that period pain is equivalent to the pain one feels while suffering from a heart attack.  This is a high time Nepalese Society at least creates an environment where period does not just wreak physical and mental stress but also financial burden. There’s already a lot on the plate for a woman, then even go on to worry about the price is hysterical.

Read more from Sneha Jha:



Follow Offline Thinker on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can send us your writings at connect.offlinethinker@gmail.com



Facebook Comments

Sneha Jha is affiliated with blogging sites like Offline thinker as the art of writing intrigues her. She believes that words have power and public speaking is challenging which is the reason why she is also a public speaker. She loves spelling out her thoughts and interacting with others. She is one of the people who loves challenging herself with new opportunities and ventures and learning a lot through it. She has converted her passion into a profession due to which she loves every second of her work. She is an easy-going person and the simplest of things can make her happy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *