Free Sanitary Products: Real Celebration Of Women’s Day For Indian Women

Another Women’s Day is upon us. Apart from being a day of repeating yearly customary paeans to Women, what could have been different? What could be the real celebration of Women’s Day for the Women of India? After all, Women’s Day has been around since 1913, and it might be around for another century. But, what could be the game-changer for Women of India? Free Sanitary Products.

Now, one might say what has got free sanitary products to do with Women’s Day? The country is busy honouring the Women and their achievements and empowerment. Why bring up a colourless topic like free sanitary products when the Women are being hailed with gusto? It is not in sync with the bigger picture of women’s emancipation and the newer heights scaled by Women in India.

Well, let’s have a dose of reality.

80% of Indian Women do NOT use sanitary products

Women’s population in India is 66 Cr. Let’s take 40 Cr as the number for the Women of menstruation age. Assume that a Woman uses 8 sanitary pads, on average, during a menstruation cycle. Let’s take a price of a sanitary pad at Rs. 5/-. So, what should be the per annum size of the Indian sanitary pad market? 40 Cr * 8 * 5 * 12 = 19200 Cr. Remember, all these are conservative estimates.

In reality, what’s the size of the Indian sanitary pad market? 4000 Cr, at best. Meaning, only 20% of Indian Women use sanitary pads. That’s about it!!! Now, if this is not shocking, what is??? Are we staying in a 21st Century India or a country stuck in medieval times? Why should 80% of Indian Women NOT use sanitary pads?

Yes, you can ask for a survey/source to back up the above truth. In India, a survey covering the entire country is not feasible and it will not see the light of the day. However, the numbers do not lie. If anybody wants to refute the veracity of 80% Indian Women not using sanitary pads, s/he is welcome to prove it with counter-data of any sorts.

Why Free Sanitary Products?

The detractors will say why free sanitary products?

  • It is not that critical an issue. Well, if menstruation hygiene of 50% of the population is not vital, what is?
  • Awareness is important. Well, the Government has been working on awareness for ages, what’s the output? We even had a movie, what’s changed?
  • It is too expensive for the Government to supply. If it is expensive for the Government, think about the buying power of the Women not using sanitary products. To whom, will it be more feasible to intervene?
  • It is a luxury item. Our women have stayed so long without sanitary products, do they really need it? In that case, we might as well bring back child marriages, sati etc. How about going back to living in the caves?
  • Why are we even discussing this topic? Good families do not discuss such issues. Yes, this is precisely why 80% of Indian Women are left out of using sanitary pads.

The Advantages of Free Sanitary Products

Sanitary pad is, of course, a simple product which for reasons endemic to Indian society has not become ubiquitous. When made free, apart from being a simple product of menstruation hygiene, it signifies a change in attitude. A change in mindset.

  • Women are free from the clutches of the typical Indian patriarchal society.
  • Women, also, have a right to a life of dignity and respect.
  • More so, Women are important for India. The country cannot claim to prosper without the efforts to ensure the well-being of 50% of the population.

From every rationale, free sanitary products are a no-brainer idea.

The Real Change

The discussion on menstruation hygiene remains a taboo subject in India. The stigma on “pads” and “periods” is difficult to be washed away. If even after 70 + years of independence, the magnitude of the issue does not reduce in intensity, it requires a drastic intervention. Piecemeal solutions won’t do.

If this is not the time for free sanitary products, when is? The discussion on approach, awareness, access, affordability can continue forever. In the meantime, let’s have free sanitary products. Come to think of it. If Women do not have periods, none of us would be born. Yet, their menstrual hygiene, a bodily function, is taboo.

India levied 12% GST on sanitary pads, as a luxury item. After a furore, the Government made it exempt from GST. The hue and cry were for a worthy cause. The worthier cause is making sanitary products freely available to the Women of India. The worthiest cause is to regard Indian Women as equal partners in Indian society. The starting point will be to take the usage of sanitary pads to 100% of the population.

On this Women’s Day or for that matter, every Women’s Day, India can continue to do lip-service to Women’s cause; it is a tried and tested option with incremental/difficult-to-notice results. Else, India can decide to make free sanitary products – the real change for Indian Women.  A game-changer making Indian Women independent of men controlling their lives and menstruation.

PS: I am not a Women’s rights activist. Rather, just a stay-at-home father to six year-old twin daughters. The above thoughts are an expression of my growing up together with my daughters and wanting a just country for my daughters that treats all citizens fairly and equitably.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent

My Name Is Madhavi, We Are Just Like You

My name is Madhavi, I am from Allepey
I speak Malayalam But I am just like you

My name is Natwar, I am from Srinagar
I speak Kashmiri But I am just like you

My name is Shubrata, I am from Kolkatta
I speak Bengali But I am just like you

My name is Vasundhara, I am from Vadodara
I speak Gujarati But I am just like you

My name is Shamsher, I am from Ajmer
I speak Urdu But I am just like you

My name is Arundhati, I am from Guwahati
I speak Assamese But I am just like you

My name is Benjamin, I am from Panjim
I speak Konkani But I am just like you

My name is Ranimai, I am from Chennai
I speak Tamil But I am just like you

My name is Jaswinder, I am from Chandigarh
I speak Punjabi But I am just like you

My name is Madhuri, I am from Ratnagiri
I speak Marathi But I am just like you

My name is Jamshetji, I am from Panchgani
I speak Parsi But I am just like you

My name is Bindiya, I am from India
I speak Hindi And I am just like you.

Inspired by My Name is Madhavi from Karadi Tales, my wife wrote the below poem for O +ve and B +ve, our twin daughters. We use this to introduce different regions and languages of the country to the girls, missed out in the original song.

My name is Hemu, I am from Jammu
I speak Kashmiri But I am just like you

My name is Bela, I am from Rourkela
I speak Odiya But I am just like you

My name is Rupali, I am from Manali
I speak Pahari But I am just like you

My name is Rameswar, I am from Bastar
I speak Gondi But I am just like you

My name is Jaswinder, I am from Amritsar
I speak Punjabi But I am just like you

My name is Kishore, I am from Indore
I speak Hindi But I am just like you

My name is Bansi Lal, I am from Karnal
I speak Haryanvi But I am just like you

My name is Sachi, I am from Khunti
I speak Santhali But I am just like you

My name is Aniket, I am from Ranikhet
I speak Kumaoni But I am just like you

My name is Kalicharan, I am from Champaran
I speak Bhojpuri But I am just like you

My name is Devashree, I am from Kashi
I speak Sanskrit But I am just like you

My name is Baichung, I am from Lachung
I speak Bhutia But I am just like you

My name is Shivani, I am from Pilani
I speak Marwari But I am just like you

My name is Subrota, I am from Malda
I speak Bengali But I am just like you

My name is Vasundhara, I am from Vadodara
I speak Gujarati But I am just like you

My name is Bendang, I am from Tuensang
I speak English But I am just like you

My name is Mili, I am from Dilli
I speak Sindhi But I am just like you

My name is Somadeva, I am from Ambassa
I speak Tripuri But I am just like you

My name is Madhuri, I am from Ratnagiri
I speak Marathi But I am just like you

My name is Sharmila, I am from Lamka
I speak Meithei But I am just like you

My name is Benjamin, I am from Bambolim
I speak Konkani But I am just like you

My name is Hitler, I am from Williamnagar
I speak Garo But I am just like you

My name is Jamshedji, I am from Panchgani
I speak Parsi But I am just like you

My name is Margaret, I am from Mamit
I speak Mizo But I am just like you

My name is Basavaraju, I am from Mangaluru
I speak Kannada But I am just like you

My name is Mamang, I am from Tawang
I speak Monpa But I am just like you

My name is Madhavi, I am from Alleppey
I speak Malayalam But I am just like you

My name is Mary, I am from Puducherry
I speak French But I am just like you

My name is Ranimai, I am from Madurai
I speak Tamil But I am just like you

My name is Sultan, I am from Kiltan
I speak Mahl But I am just like you

My name is Xavier, I am from Nicobar
I speak Nicobarese But I am just like you

My name is Melissa, I am from Silvassa
I speak Portuguese But I am just like you

My name is Chamanthi, I am from Tirupati
I speak Telugu But I am just like you

My name is Arundhati, I am from Nalbari
I speak Assamese But I am just like you

My name is Asaad, I am from Nizamabad
I speak Urdu But I am just like you

My name is Manan, I am from Daman
I speak Warli But I am just like you

We are Arka Iha, we are from India
We speak multi-languages
But we are just like you

My wife has also written Neem Peepal Banyan adaptation to introduce the trees.