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PTI #BleedWithoutTax started by the Students' Federation of India, the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), sent sanitary napkins with the slogan "bleed without fear, bleed without tax" to Jaitley in July last year, while Youth ki Awaaz started their own hashtag #IAmNotDown to protest the taxation of sanitary napkins. SheSays India, a Mumbai-based NGO that works to promote gender equality and women's rights, has been hammering at the government's doors on this issue since as far back as 2016. They launched the viral campaign #lahukalagaan (tax on blood), which had the support of comedians like Kaneez Surka, Mallika Dua and actor Aditi Rao Hydari. They have also released multiple videos on the subject and even filed a public interest litigation, which founder Trisha Shetty says is pending in the Supreme Court. Beyond a legal recognition of sanitary napkins as a necessity, these movements have been fighting for access to better menstrual health more than anything. Look at the statistics: the vast 2015-'16 National Family Health Survey indicates that 62 percent of very young women (ages 15 to 24) use cloth during their periods. Other (much smaller) studies have indicated the poor menstrual health management available to most Indian women and also how closely linked it is to schoolgirls dropping out . It's ridiculous to remember that Maneka Gandhi was ever of the opinion that 12 percent tax was alright as long as Self-Help Groups (SHGs) were encouraged to make their own biodegradable pads. I mean, did she realise that bindi, sindoor (vermillion) and kajal (or items that Divyani Rattanpal hilariously called “ sanskaari se bhaari ”) were exempted from tax way before sanitary napkins were?
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