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Jayati Godhawat

JWB Blogger

Prageeyaa Khanna Of She Says Explains Why India Needs To Discard Sanitary Napkin Tax

  • JWB Post
  •  November 23, 2016


Shetty Women Welfare Foundation initiated with a cause She Says India with the vision to educate, rehabilitate, and empower women to speak up and take direct action against abuse, especially sexual harassment.

Partnered with organizations like United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan, Global Citizen India, amongst many others, She Says India is committed to ending gender discrimination in India by uniting the youth and encouraging them to become activists for social change in the country.

She Says India have listed down their areas of focus in seven phases, ranging from creating awareness amongst women about the sexual offenses recognized by the Indian law and its redressal, workplace harassment, treatment of rape victims, to advocating for various women rights like the criminalization of rape, Sanitary Napkin Tax, etc.

JWB spoke to the Gender Advocacy Lead of She Says India, Prageeyaa Khanna and gained her insights on the issues that ‘She Says India’ addresses.

On Safety of Women at Public Spaces

“She Says India ties up with bars, restaurants, and other public spaces like NH7 Weekender musical festival,” said Prageeyaa.

“At one level, we conduct gender sensitization programs where we guide people how they can make public spaces safe for women. In my sessions, I always tell the girls to decide on a code amongst her friends to indicate that they are uncomfortable or in some trouble,” she explained.
Prageeyaa also shared that She Says India organizes discussions under, ‘Feminist Rani’ where public figures from various fields hold interactive sessions at public spaces.

“Also, we hold special sessions for the owners, organizers, and staff of the public places and events. We give them tips on how they can take action against the abuse they come across in their premises. More often than not, the victim of the abuse is seeing leaving the place of attack and it’s unfortunate. We want to change that. We guide the staff to ensure that the attacker is punished for abusing a person.”

On the Importance of Psychological Help Post-Abuse

“Any kind of harassment affects a person not only physically but emotionally, too. However, seeking for psychological help is not accepted in our country,” said Prageeyaa.

“One should understand that the emotional pain of a victim can haunt her for a long time and can have serious consequences. So, to prevent further damage, it is so important to seek psychological help where the victim doesn’t hesitate to share her thoughts because of the fear of being judged,” she added.

On the Sanitary Napkin Tax & why it should be abolished

“We at She Says India are advocating for various women’s rights in India, and Sanitary Napkin Tax is one of them. Why should Sanitary Napkin be taxed? Menstruation is not something that women have chosen for themselves. It is something natural that happens to every female, every month,” said Prageeyaa. “It reflects that our society hasn’t accepted women’s body.”

She explained another reason why there should be no tax on Sanitary Napkins and it makes perfect sense.

“The health and hygiene standards of women in India are very poor. Most rural and underprivileged women cannot afford sanitary pads. So, if the sanitary pads are provided on subsidized rates and are not taxed, it will be in reach of such women.”

Totally legit!

“Why do you think that the majority of Indian women are unaware of their rights?” I asked.

Prageeyaa replied, “To be honest, even I didn’t know much about women’s rights before. I came to know about it when I studied Law. And, I think that there are two reasons why most of us are unaware of the laws for our protection.”

“First, discussions at our homes never happen. The parents never talk to their children and educate them on their rights. And, talking about sexual violence is a big taboo. Secondly, the laws are very complex to understand. We need to develop laws in a language that any person can comprehend, easily. Also, we need greater connectivity to ensure that everyone is aware of these laws.”

Me: Indian men claim authority over the women in their lives due to which women have to seek their permission for everything. How can this ‘allowing’ or the ‘authoritative’ mentality of men change?

Prageeyaa: I believe that the concept of gender equality is misunderstood. God has made men and women different from each other and has endowed them with a distinct set of characteristics. So, instead of equality we should thrive for balance amongst the genders where every gender respects the journey of the other gender. There shouldn’t be any room for the authority of one gender over the other.

I firmly believe that the education begins at home and that the parents play the most important role in developing the mentality of their children. So, the parents must inculcate in their sons to respect the life and the choices of women and not judge them or claim authority over them.

Me: Most women don’t come out and speak about the abuse in India due to the pressure of maintaining their family’s honor. How can we change this thinking?

Prageeyaa: I, too, grew up in a traditional family set-up. Most of us are taught from an early age that a woman’s life is about caring, giving, and keeping the family together. It’s so deep-rooted in us that we start believing in the same things. Another major issue is that more the affluent family, more the women’s voices are oppressed, be it by themselves or by others. They feel that if they speak about the abuse, it will bring shame to their family’s name and how they’ll come in public eye.

The change in the mindset will only happen when the abuse is not looked at as a personal issue but as a social evil. And, only when you see it as a social evil, you’ll fight for it.

Prageeyaa Khanna conducting gender sensitisation session in a school

Me: You conduct a lot of gender sensitization programs in schools, colleges, etc. Do the teens and young adults understand the meaning of consent?

Prageeyaa: Unfortunately, most of the students still don’t get the real meaning of consent. When I ask them what they understand by the term, majority replies, “Getting someone’s agreement or permission.” But, that is incorrect, if you ask me. Consent is more than the verbal yes to a thing. There’s a saying, “Not responding is also a response,” and like Amitabh Bachchan in the movie ‘Pink’ said, “No means no;” I, too, always explain the students that consent is more about understanding the negative aspect of consent. Consent or its lack thereof should be understood by the body language of a person, too!

Consent is simple!

Me: Not only women are harassed sexually, but there’s also a percentage of men who suffer the sexual abuse, too. However, rarely any man files a report against the abuse. Why is that?

Prageeyaa: The most common question that the students ask me is that why are the laws in India, mostly for women? We are the creators of problems, and we only come with the solutions for it. It applies to the laws for our protection, too.  The major issue is that it’s not that only women are the victims, but it’s only the female victims who report the sexual abuse. Even men are sexually harassed, but they shy away from coming out and reporting it because of their so called, “masculinity.”  Men consider themselves physically strong, “never cry or crib,” kind of people and this mindset restrict themselves to speak about the sexual violence against them.

Every person has masculine and feminine energy in them. And, according to me, one should be accepting of both these energies inside him/her.

I also think that the Indian laws for the protection against sexual abuse should also be changed or broadened so as to accommodate all genders and not only the women. For example, the legal definition of rape only takes into account the forceful penile penetration. It implies that only a man can rape a woman. In reality, a woman can also sexually abuse a man. We strongly need to make our laws more gender-inclusive.

Me: Have you ever had to fight for your rights in your personal life?

Prageeyaa: Yes, there have been a lot of instances. And, it has been a lonely battle where I had to fight for my rights against many people. I have zero tolerance for any kind of injustice. I cherish my breasts. I cherish my thighs. I cherish my hips. I cherish my vagina. I cherish every part of my body. But, my body is not a public place for people to just walk over. And, if anybody forgets this I know how to fight for myself. One of the reasons I studied law was the bitter experience I faced in my life. I want to help as many women I can.

I want to give out a message to everyone: You don’t have to be a victim or a woman to speak about and address the issues like sexual abuse. Remember, we are human beings first and that we need to fight against such evils to maintain the dignity of life, regardless of any gender.


It was truly an enlightening conversation. JWB lauds the efforts of the entire team of She Says for their groundbreaking contribution to ending gender discrimination.

P.S. You can learn about the laws for the sexual offenses on the She Says website, here.

Photo Source: Prageeyaa Khanna,

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