The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra government to reconsider the existing costs of sanitary napkins and make them available at subsidised rates to women.
This request comes after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by the Shetty Women Welfare Foundation, which is an NGO registered in Mumbai.
The PIL brought to light the issue that around 88% women do not have access to sanitary pads due to lack of awareness and high costs, and also challenged the Centre’s 12% GST on these essential goods.
A division bench of justice Naresh Patil and justice Nitin heard this PIL.
“This is an important issue, and it affects half the population. What has the Maharashtra government done to increase and spread awareness about the use of sanitary napkins?” asked Justice Patil.
“The state government also needs to consider cutting down the cost of these napkins and make them available at a subsidised rate,” he said.
The bench suggested that the state government use a price control mechanism, similar to the one which is used for essential drugs. It has also given two weeks to the principal secretaries of the concerned departments to suggest a mechanism to increase awareness about the use of sanitary pads and also make them available at concessional rates.
Here are some organizations in Maharashtra that provide sanitary pads at low rates, and those who manufacture eco-friendly, reusable pads across India.
Lawyers of the petitioner body informed the court that the Maharashtra government has already initiated a project which provides sanitary pads at subsidised rates in eight districts in Maharashtra.
The project was implemented primarily in tribal districts, through an NGO. The petitioner body added that it could be expanded to other districts of Maharashtra as well.
Since the GST is an issue concerning the Centre, the court has asked for the assistance of Anil C Singh, who is the Additional Solicitor-General of India.