Sanitary napkins have been exempted from the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST). The move was hailed by campaigners who feel that it will help to improve the women hygiene and also boost girls’ attendance in a school where they are on their periods. Further, it will also improve their job prospects.

While talking to reporters at the 28th GST Council meeting in New Delhi, Interim Finance Minister, Piyush Goyal said, “I am sure all mothers and sisters will be very happy to hear that sanitary pads are now 100 percent exempt from tax.

According to a report by charity WaterAid and UNICEF, 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.

Removing tax on pads can counter one of the biggest barriers to a girl’s education, who are forced to stay back because of the lack of feminine supplies. The whole issue of menstruation is stigmatized in this country and this makes it further difficult for women to deal with this issue. In the rural belt of India, many schools do not have toilets, which make it impossible for a girl to attend school.

Due to this, periods are one of the primary factors for girls to drop out of school in a nation where four out of five women and girls are estimated by campaigners to have no access to sanitary pads.

Sanitary pads were taxed at 12 percent under Goods and Services Tax (GST), which was launched in July 2017.

There were numerous protests, petitions and court cases on why such an essential item like sanitary napkins has not been exempted from tax as it was considered a luxury item by the government rather than an essential product.

Sources say that women in refugee camps and also people in the sex trade are more vulnerable to infections as they are unable to get access to feminine supplies. Unable to bear the expense of buying a pad, women in rural belt use rags or pieces of cloth, while they are on their periods and this makes them vulnerable to several diseases and infections.

In 2017, there was a petition launched by lawmaker Sushmita Dev who demanded a reduction or total tax exemption on pads, citing that about 70 percent of women in India could not afford them. Women across the country joined her, and the online petition gained more than 400,000 signatures.

When something as natural as menstruation is considered a taboo, it hinders the overall development of a woman. But, times are changing and earlier this year, Bollywood film on menstrual hygiene “Padman”, starring Akshay Kumar was released, it triggered debate over the taboo subject of menstrual hygiene in India.

Even though the decision of exempting tax on pads should have been made long ago, but there is no doubt that this is a big win for women of this country.