For those who have been living under a rock, a 12 percent tax was applicable to sanitary napkins as per the previous GST regime. This received a lot of criticism from consumers and social activists alike. Campaigners from all over the country cried shame on the government for making women pay the price for something that they had no control over.
The government, on the other hand, had argued in support of the loss of input tax credits for the local manufacturers; in other words, zero GST on sanitary napkins meant death of sanitary napkin manufacturers in India. However, the GST Council finally caved in to the vehement protests doing rounds of social media and otherwise.
#LahuKaLagaan was a campaign on Twitter initiated by an NGO based out of Mumbai, called SheSays India. They kickstarted the campaign with a video made in collaboration with Vitamin Stree to talk about the period tax. The online campaign soon found support from celebrity comedians, politicians, and actors. The heavy social traction of this campaign shattered the silence on a topic that the country preferred to keep under the wraps.
This was followed by several successful campaigns such as #TaxFreeWings, a social petition led by MP Sushmita Dev; #BleedWithoutTax, a campaign by the Student’s Federation Of India; and #IAmNotDown by the online magazine Youth Ki Awaaz.
The most recent was the #PadManChallenge, initiated by Akshay Kumar during the promotions of his movie Pad Man. The R Balki movie raised concerns around the remorseful situation of feminine hygiene in India. Apart from the most celebrated social influencers and Bollywood & TV actors, pictures of thousands flashing bright white napkins flooded the social platforms.
Amidst the heavy engagement for each of these social media campaigns, sceptics challenged if posing for the camera with a pad in hand, or social media rants were a solution in any manner! To be honest, we know that they have their answer now.
Like most other successful campaigns, the cause gained further traction due to individual offline events. One of them was when a group of students in Gwalior sent Prime Minister Narendra Modi sanitary napkins scribed with urges to abolish the tax on the product. It is needless to mention that these campaigns rode the ‘women empowerment’ train set in motion by brand campaigns viz. Stayfree’s ‘Support A Woman’ and Whisper’s ‘Like A Girl’.
Tax burden or not, the judgement was given a warm welcome by the “aadhi abaadi” on all social platforms. While we wait with baited breaths to see the actual impact of tax exemption on the actual prices of sanitary napkins, it is understood that with ‘the right words for a right cause’, social media campaigns have the merit to affect millions in real life.
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