Indian students have sent 1,000 signed sanitary towels to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to abolish the 12% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on sanitary products.

The students, from the Indian province of Madhya Pradesh, launched the campaign on 4 January to raise awareness of the extreme measures women are forced to take because they cannot afford sanitary pads.

Many women use rags and pieces of cloth when they are menstruating instead of sanitary pads.

In rural areas, some women use leaves, sawdust or even ashes, which carry a serious risk of infection.

A lack of proper menstrual hygiene has led to many girls dropping out of school and missing work, according to CNN Money.

One of the students behind the recent initiative, Hari Mohan, told Asian News International (ANI): "Sanitary napkins have been placed under 12% GST. Women from rural areas use others things during their menstrual days, which is fatal to their health.

"Instead of being subsidised, it has been placed under the luxury item. Therefore, we have started this campaign aiming to send 1,000 pads to the government by 3 March."

This is not the first campaign in India to protest the "tampon tax". Last year, more than 300,000 people signed a petition by lawmaker Sushmita Dev that called for sanitary products to be tax-free.

Thousands of people joined the online campaign #LahuKaLagaan, which translates as "tax on blood", calling on the government to abolish the GST.

"The right for women to have access to menstrual hygiene and sanitation is absolute," said Trisha Shetty, the founder of campaign group SheSays. "Women should not be discriminated against on the grounds of a natural bodily function."

"Women are already not on an equal playing field, and on top of that you choose to tax them," Vidisha Mishra, a gender expert at Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told CNN Money. "It is unfair on a very constitutional level."

India protest sanitary pads
Indian women protest the 12% tax on sanitary pads in June 2017. DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images