The Indian government announced on Sunday that it is in the process of putting a cap on the price of sanitary napkins.
The National List of Essential Medicines is also reviewing the prices of other hygiene products including soaps, adult diapers, hospital hand gloves, and floor disinfectant. The final list of essential items that will come under price control will likely be released in the next two months.
The move has the potential to make period products and soap more affordable for millions of people who menstruate in the country and don’t have access to safe hygiene.
“The idea is to ensure that all these products are available and affordable to the common people as they play a crucial role in disease control and maintaining health and hygiene,” a government official said, according to the Times of India. Some of these products will be available for free at primary and community health centers, the official added.
As many as 210 million people lack access to improved sanitation in India and 88% of people who get periods use unsafe materials like rags and sawdust instead of sanitary pads. These dangerous alternatives to period products put 70% of women at risk of severe infection, according to the Indian ministry of health.
While education and adequate facilities are also needed to end period poverty and promote safe hygiene, more affordable products definitely won’t hurt. The cultural shame attached to periods and a shortage of resources stop people who menstruate from going to school and working every day. It has been estimated that as many as 1 in 5 girls in India drops out of school after they get their periods because they don’t have access to safe facilities or period products.
Read More: Period Poverty: Everything You Need to Know
In 2018, India declared tampons and sanitary napkins tax-free, but most sanitary pads cost between 5 to 12 rupees (8 cents to 20 cents) per pad, which is a luxury for the nearly 800 million people who live on less than $1.90 a day.
Prices of the sanitary pads are already among the lowest in the world, a senior executive at a multinational consumer goods company told the Economic Times. But at hospitals and institutions, patients end up paying more for the necessities.
Some manufacturers have expressed concerns about the government’s planned crackdown on hygiene items. Companies argue the price cap on certain items will force them to use cheaper raw materials and produce lower-quality products, according to the Economic Times.
It is unclear how much the price will change for period products that aren’t single-use, like menstrual cups and reusable pads –– which tend to be more expensive upfront but offer a more sustainable and affordable option long term.
The standing committee on affordable medicine will have the final say in which medical items and health care products will fall under the new price control.