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Activists In India Decry Free Sanitary Pads As Poll Pledge

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Activists In India Decry Free Sanitary Pads As Poll Pledge

Women activists have criticized two of India's major political parties for making sanitary towels a key promise for upcoming state elections.

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party, which rules the southern state of Karnataka, have promised free sanitary pads to all women if the party is elected, reports the BBC.

The pledge comes after India imposed a 12 percent tax on sanitary products in July, causing much anger and protests.

But activists are not convinced.

"As part of a manifesto, it is nothing to be celebrated. First you impose Goods and Services Tax (GST) on sanitary napkins and then you offer them for free.

"This doublespeak exposes their tokenistic approach towards women's hygiene," the co-convenor of the Karnataka Women's Health Movement, Dr. Akhila, who only uses her first name, told BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi.

"It is one thing to offer sanitary pads. But has the government ensured toilets in government schools with running water? The problem is that those in power do not address structural issues and cultural issues on a subject like menstruation,'' she added.

Jyoti Hitnal, who works with a non-governmental organisation, told BBC Hindi that she found it "laughable" that political parties should today suddenly wake up to the subject of sanitary napkins, which they consider "taboo" – without even creating an awareness about health and women's hygiene.

Image credit: AFP