Edited by Rojina Luintel
Menstruation comes with a huge share of stigmas in Nepal. There are tons of religious beliefs and taboos which treat women on periods as untouchables, and even provide for their isolation. A practice called Chaupadi Pratha, was banned by the supreme court of Nepal in 2004, but is still widely practiced in rural parts of Nepal.
In Chaupadi Pratha, the females during their periods are banned from their homes for 7 days. They are compelled to live in a hut which is usually yards away from their homes. These huts are not safe and women are in constant risk of getting attacked by animals and there have been cases of women dying due to cold or by choking from the fumes in the unventilated small huts. This has been going on for ages and to add to the already existing ordeal for the women of Nepal, the government of Nepal imposes a hefty tax on feminine hygiene products, including the sanitary pads.
It imposes 13% Value added tax on the sanitary pads. The new budget was passed this year and the prices of the sanitary pads have been hiked. Though, government says that it has not increased the tax, there is no proper explanation as to how the prices have gone up, since this fiscal year. The importers and the business houses selling these products have gone silent.
Apart from the value added tax, there is a 15% custom tax imposed on sanitary pads imported from other countries. Also, there is 5% custom tax on the raw materials that are required to produce sanitary pads here in Nepal.
These high-priced feminine hygiene products are not affordable to most Nepalese women. Due to this reason, many have to opt for less hygienic alternatives like rags, old clothes and even leaves which could cause reproductive tract infection. Some girls are compelled to stay home rather than going to school because they can’t afford such products.
Although the tax has not been increased, the hike in the price has reignited the discussion on why tax is being imposed on feminine hygiene products. Activists had held different protests and rallies demanding easy accessibility of the sanitary pads and demanding that such taxes should be scrapped totally. We will see what the future holds.