India withdraws controversial tax on sanitary pads

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India cuts sales tax across sectors to ease pain of traders and consumers Reuters

NEW DELHI (AFP) –India has withdrawn a controversial tax on sanitary pads following a vocal campaign led by activists and Bollywood stars to boost female education and empowerment.

Saturday’s announcement is part of a slew of changes to the national goods and services tax (GST) intended to reduce the prices of around 90 key consumer goods, many of which target urban middle classes ahead of next year’s general election.

“I think all women will be happy to know that sanitary pads will now have 100 percent exemption. There will be no GST on sanitary pads,” India’s acting finance minister Piyush Goyal told journalists on Saturday.

A national survey report released earlier this year said around 60 percent of young women aged between 16 and 24 years in India did not have access to sanitary pads or other hygiene supplies.

Reports in the last few years have linked absence of basic infrastructure such as toilets at Indian government schools outside big urban centres, and lack of access to sanitary pads, with higher dropout rates among girls.

The new national GST (goods and services tax) was introduced last July under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and was the country’s biggest tax overhaul in a generation.

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