Why Do Women Have To Pay More Than Men For Personal Care Products Or Clothes?

“By the time a woman turns 30, she’s been robbed of $40,562 just for being a woman”. This statement by Sherry Baker, President, Product Development and Marketing, European Wax Center, which launched the campaign #AxThePinkTax, should concern us all.

India finally scraped the tax on sanitary pads in July 2018.

Costing women roughly $2135 per year, the ‘Gender Tax’ or ‘Pink Tax’ basically signifies the burden that women bear, in having to pay more than men, for similar products, including personal care and hygiene items, clothes, toys and even calculators.

The term ‘Pink Tax’ was coined since women have to frequently pay considerably more than men, for similar goods and services, that are almost identical, with the only significant difference being the product colour and the packaging.

A report by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs stated that, on average, products that are targeted towards women and girls, stereotypically marketed and packaged in pink and purple with glitter and floral scents, cost 7% more than identical products that are for men. Worse, women have to pay more for similar products in a world where there is also a gender pay gap.

This type of gender discrimination also plays out on the products that should be deemed as necessities for women and are resulting in issues like the ‘Tampon Tax’. Governments, globally, have been categorising menstrual pads, tampons and other menstrual products as non-essential items and subjecting them to Value Added Tax.

70% of states across the US charge a sales tax on women hygiene products. Though countries like Kenya, Canada, Malaysia, Australia and India have scrapped this tampon tax, this has only been done after significant protests.

India, where more than 40% of women aged fifteen to twenty-four don’t have access to hygienic sanitary products, according to India’s National Family Health Survey, for example, had a controversial 12% tax, despite products like contraceptives being exempt.

Since this tax was met with a lot of protests, campaigns and petitions from women across the country, India finally scraped the tax in July 2018. Later that year, Australia also announced that they will get rid of the 10% GST on female hygiene products, after a two-decade-long campaign by gender activists and women’s rights groups.

While this prejudicial tax has been talked about for a while and we have seen some countries take corrective measures, there are still many countries that are still charging women more than they should. The US, for example, still hasn’t been able to completely dispose of the tampon tax – many states still charge around 6.85% sales tax on sanitary napkins and tampons. Some countries charge incredibly high rates of sales tax –  27% in Hungary and 19% in Germany.

That such a tax still exists is a reflection of what authorities deem necessary. Would the situation be different if we had more women in such government positions? Women, due to the ever-discriminatory gender-based pay gap, already earn much less than men and have less purchasing power, and so when coupled with the pink tax, their purchasing power falls even further. This pink tax, therefore, promotes economic inequality and we need every government to reverse this situation. It’s about time women started a worldwide campaign.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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