PINK TAX : LEGITIMATE OR BIASED ?

Introduction

To think about a tax reform named after a color simply sounds absurd and unrealistic. But, the underlying psychology behind coming up with such a name goes deeper. As per the color scheme goes, pink is the color that usually gets painted as the feminine, soft and tender aesthetic which is wrapped to a specific section of the society: Women and girls mainly. Now, envisage paying subsidiary prices for the basic necessity a human requires and for the same products that are used by the opposite gender of the society. Not only infuriating but also extremely discriminatory on the grounds of sex and gender which is ironically our constitutional equality ensured to every citizen. Pink tax, as the name suggests it is a tax reform imposed on sanitary products which are mostly used by women. Even though, living in a modern era of fresh morals and understanding, some countries still use this age-old pricing practice.

What is Pink Tax?

Even though having tax in its name, a pink tax is not an actual tax levied. It is an invisible, gender-discriminatory yet legal pricing practice, where mostly the women are obliged to pay a slightly higher amount of money for the same product that men use[1]. Thus, to put it simply, the pink tax is a supplementary price that especially women pay while using feminine products.

But why the color pink?

It is because of the stereotypical gender color-coding that has been ingrained into the very core of society. Which is being; Pink is for women and blue is for men. As many female products are packaged and manufactured in the color pink, the tax is named: The Pink tax.

Pink Tax: A Global Phenomenon

The introduction of the Pink Tax dates back to a report in 1994 from California’s Assembly Office, where it was found that 64% of the stores in five major cities in the States charged a higher price for a detergent products for women’s blouses and cloth to a man’s usual button-up. [2]Thus, the rising trend of this new economic movement first emerged in a first-world country. The issue was more delineated when in the year 2015, it was found that among the 794 comparable sold throughout the country had more costs imposed on products specially targeted for females. It was also observed by various researchers that among the 106 toys and accessories even a toy targeted for girls incurred costs 7 percent higher than the male ones[3].

European countries are not allowed to levy zero-rated value-added taxes and imposed a minimum of 5 percent tax on period taxes. The highest tampon tax recorded in European countries was a whopping 27 percent which was imposed in Hungary followed by Sweden which regulated a pink tax reform of 25 percent on female sanitary products[4]. On the other hand, Ireland regulated free tampon tax upon inclusion in the European Union[5]. However, since 2007, especially member European Union countries were free to depart from standard sales tax and were recommended to apply super discounted tax to feminine sanitary products. There are a few countries that are yet to recognize that gender-biased tax reforms are highly discriminatory. Among Oceania countries, Australia still has pink tax in full effect. Data have shown the tax distribution among various female sanitary products. Thus on average, women had to pay 29% more for razors, 16% more for body wash, and 12% more for intimate wears[6].

Pink Tax in India

Being a developing country, with a larger amount of people still co-existing in poor living conditions, the imposition of a pink tax is equivalent to a saying: “Let them eat cake”. Tripti Bhatia Gandhi, founder, and CEO of Detales Brand Communications observed that[7]: “While the problem exists globally, it is even more pronounced in a developing nation like India, where it often goes unnoticed because of other pressing issues that women face on a daily basis like safety at public places.” She feels that the issue is so ingrained in our psyche, and common in the eyes of the citizens, that it gets conveniently overlooked.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the weight for more work but less pay is heavy for women. The gender divide in workplaces is already prevalent with only a limited number of women coming forward for various leadership roles. The additional cost of a female product compared to regular products has increased over the years at an alarming rate[8]. For example in recent times, a study has shown that while a razor for men costs around Rs. 180, the same product manufactured for women costs Rs. 250. And this doesn’t just stop only up to hygienic products. As simple as clothing materials much like a t-shirt incurs more costs for women than men[9]. The 12% GST on sanitary products was the most controversial and enraging tax reform when initially GST was introduced.  Petitions were filed in the Delhi and Bombay High Court respectively on the grounds of violating Article 15(1) and 21 of the Indian Constitution. However, on July 26, 2018, taking into consideration of such pleas, GST on sanitary products was officially exempted from the newly introduced tax reforms[10].

Is Pink Tax Still relevant?

The relevance of ‘tampon tax’, ‘pink tax’ will continue to breed grounds for years to come if the abolition of such tax does not arise as a global phenomenon. After years of protests, and petitions from various activists, the legislative reforms of respective jurisdictions have taken considerable steps to lower or abolish such an economic reform.

Previously, women in Africa used to pay a 15% tax on female sanitary napkins but after much sought-out discussions and debate, South Africa, as of April 1, 2019, in conjunction with some countries decided to regulate a 0% tax rate on sanitary products. Albeit, this is not a pronouncement for free sanitary napkins, however, this is still considered a big win for several countries in South Africa. However, the first win for the removal of tampon tax dates way back to 2004 when Kenya decided to dismiss the economic practice of imposing tampon tax[11]. Countries like the US, and the UK have also taken steps to curb the prolonged substantial practice of tax reforms on sanitary products. In the year 2016, US Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who had previously introduced the 1995 California Act, also introduced the Pink Tax Repeal Act at the federal level but has yet to be implemented[12]. The United Kingdom from January 1, 2021, finally abolished the tampon tax, following the 0% tax rate on sanitary products like South Africa[13]. This sets out as an example and awareness for other countries too that are yet to implement such reforms and only to realize that an individual’s clean hygiene is a basic need for living and also that sanitary products are a necessity just like basic food, clothing, and shelter. It should never coincide with a form of luxury.

Conclusion

Not everything glitters is gold, but human nature has always been inclined towards chasing anything shiny or glittery that ‘looks’ good whether it be actual gold or just gold plated. Thus, a beauty standard is that “glitter” for our society that is unattainable no matter how hard someone tries. It is due to this run and chase that we get occupied with our appearances and forget to accept the realities of our bodies. This is exactly the sick marketing such manufacturers and retailers sell. Yes, our flaws in a nice, shiny, pink cover.

Author(s) Name: Adrika Mitra (Calcutta University, West Bengal)

References:

[1] Lakshita Singh, ‘Pink Tax: Learn Everything You Need To Know About Extra Tax That Only Women Pays’ (Her Zindagi; February 17, 2022) https://www.herzindagi.com/society-culture/what-is-pink-tax-article-193569#:~:text=Pink%20tax%20is%20a%20form,are%20usually%20available%20for%20less. Last Accessed May 23, 2022.

[2] Larry Light, ‘There’s a Tax on Women’ (Forbes; February 12, 2022) https://www.forbes.com/sites/lawrencelight/2022/02/12/theres-a-pink-tax-on-women/?sh=73eb07897318 Last Accessed May 23, 2022

[3] Anne-Marcelle Ngabirano, ‘’Pink Tax’ forces women to pay more than men’ (USA Today; Updated March 28, 2017) https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2017/03/27/pink-tax-forces-women-pay-more-than-men/99462846/ Last accessed May 23, 2022

[4] Katharina Buccholz, ‘Where the “Tampon Tax” is Highest and Lowest in Europe’ (Statista; May 28, 2022) https://www.statista.com/chart/18192/sales-tax-rates-on-feminine-hygiene-products-in-europe/ Last Accessed May 23, 2022

[5] Leah Rodriguez, ‘The Tampon Tax: Everything You Need to Know’ (Global Citizen; June 29, 2021) https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/tampon-tax-explained-definition-facts-statistics/#:~:text=The%20tampon%20tax%20is%20as,eliminate%20the%20tampon%20tax%20sooner. Last Accessed May 24, 2022

[6] Alex Ritchie, ‘The pink tax explained: The real cost of being a female customer’ (Rate City; March 8, 2022) https://www.ratecity.com.au/bank-accounts/articles/pink-tax-explained-real-cost-female-consumer Last Accessed May 24, 2022

[7] Shriya Agrawal, ‘Pink Tax: The Cost Of Being A Woman In A Man’s World’ (Grazia; March 11, 2021) https://www.grazia.co.in/lifestyle/pink-tax-the-cost-of-being-a-woman-in-a-mans-world-6877.html  Last Accessed May 24, 2022

[8] Ritika Rana ,’ What Is Pink Tax And How Does It Contribute To Increasing Gender Bias?’ (The Logical Indian; September 18, 2021) https://thelogicalindian.com/gender/pink-tax-gender-bias-30767#:~:text=Pink%20tax%20refers%20to%20the,the%20same%20products%20for%20men.  Last Accessed May 23, 2022

[9] Vidhi Damani ,’Pink Tax- The Additional Cos Of Being a Woman’ (GNLU Journal of Law &Economics; August 19, 2022) http://gjle.in/2020/08/19/pink-tax-the-additional-cost-of-being-a-woman/  Last Accessed May 24, 2022

[10] Vedant Agarwal, ‘GST Exemption on Sanitary Napkins- Opening a Pandora’s Box?’ ( Tax Guru; July 07, 2020) https://taxguru.in/goods-and-service-tax/gst-exemption-sanitary-napkins-opening-pandoras-box.html Last accessed May 23, 2022

[11] Michel’le Donnelly, ‘How to get the ‘Tampon Tax’ scrapped: A 5-step guide’ (My Period Is Awesome; October 19) https://www.myperiodisawesome.com/blog/how-to-get-the-tampon-tax-scrapped-a-5-step-guide#:~:text=For%20as%20long%20as%20there’s,pay%20a%20tax%20of%2015%25. Last Accessed May 23, 2022

[12] ‘Speier Introduces Pink Tax Repeal Act To End Gender-Based Pricing Discrimination’ (Jackie Speier; June 11, 2021) https://speier.house.gov/press-releases?id=C2F060D1-0D84-4824-B9E5-40F879F22CFA#:~:text=It’s%20time%20to%20end%20this,have%20been%20illegal%20since%201996.  Last Accessed May 24, 2022

[13] HM Treasury, ‘Tampon Tax abolished from Today’ (Gov.uk; January 1, 2021) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tampon-tax-abolished-from-today  Last Accessed May 23, 2022

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