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The Pink Tax: An International Review

Written by Aahi Guha Thakurta

Illustrated by Anousha Dutta

Edited by Anvita Tripathi


Caused by various schemes such as tariffs, product discrimination and product differentiation, to name a few, the upsettingly widespread pink tax has caused myriads of women to take to the streets, in protest of this discriminatory and instituitionalised tax. As a result of this taxation, the policies of today’s market have become an enemy to women worldwide as products targeted specifically for females make their pockets lighter and lighter. Governments across the world promised an abrogation, but how many of them have truthfully fulfilled their promise? Here with much more, Perspectoverse’s Aahi Guha Thakurta presents: The Pink Tax: An International Review.


One of the most prominent first-world problems, to this date, remains to be gender equity or so to say, female equity. Gender equity is defined as fairness in treatment of men and women, with reference to rights, obligations and opportunities. Unfortunately, it seems to be a distant dream due to perplexing law implementations such as the introduction of the pink tax. However, one noteworthy factor is that the international progress made to work against this tax, although quite stagnant, has left a strong impact already. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go.

Now firstly, what is pink tax? It refers to the ‘extra amount of money’ women have to pay for their products as compared to men. These products can range from clothing to sanitary commodities. The tampon tax, which falls under pink tax, refers to an unreasonable amount of money that women need to pay in order to purchase sanitary pads, tampons etc. It is not quite as simple to detect pink tax in different brands and products but upon careful observation, the sharp difference in prices for a man and woman can be observed.

Pink tax, as a concept, is not nearly discussed or prioritized as much as it should be in today’s world, since various surveys that have been conducted show that about 67% of respondents had not even heard of the term before. According to surveys conducted, a female has to pay roughly 7% more than a male when it comes to common items such as products of personal hygiene etc. Women are being forced to pay extra for their sanitary pads, tampons etc, as if our menstrual cycle is a voluntary action. For example, upon looking at the price of male and female deodorants produced by renowned brands, one can observe that women pay about 48% more than men for the same product.

Unfortunately, this is not the only form of pink tax. To begin with, the term ‘pink tax’ itself obnoxiously generalises women by associating them with the colour ‘pink’ and men with the colour ‘blue’, a form of gross discrimination which has hardly been discussed. Not only that, brands producing similar products for both genders, such as razors, demand a much higher amount from the buyers of the products they ideally produce for women than from the ones that are ideally produced for men.

What is even more devastating is that the reason why this tax is levied upon women is because women are supposedly more attracted to products related to skincare, beauty etc and shopping in general, thus grossly generalising women yet again.

It is quite ironic that women are obligated to pay more considering the age-old wage that the fairer sex has had to suffer. According to the Monster Salary Index of 2019, in India, women are estimated to earn 19% less than men, keeping aside factors such as status of work, field of study etc, while in the US women are estimated to make 89 cents for every 1$ men make.

This concept of unnecessarily over-taxing women based on an age-old stereotype, while being cleverly hidden, has been prevalent as well as opposed for a long time. One of the first official protests came about in the form of the Pink Tax Repeal Act, first introduced by Jackie Speier, a California state senate elected to the US House of Representatives, on 8th July, 2016. The purpose of the act was to abolish pink tax and this form of gender discrimination. However, the law did not pass but she reintroduced an amended form of the bill on 10th April 2018, which stated that any comparable product marketed towards men and women have to be equal in price. Other concerns and instances of discrimination such as higher tariff and import tax payment for women were also added to the bill; the act is still a topic of debate.

This has been followed by numerous protests in various countries like India and USA- specifically in New Orleans, Capitol etc; one of the significant ones being in the UK, where women took to the streets in white pants without wearing any sanitary products to make a statement regarding the significance of these products.

Another tax, chiefly falling under the same concept is the Tampon Tax, which, true to its title, is a form of extra taxation on tampons and other sanitary products for women. A case study in the USA had shown that 36 states levied taxes in order to purchase tampons. This tax has also rightfully received backlash with the valid argument that women are not in control of their menstrual cycle and due to this unnecessary tax, a large portion of women and young girls, due to their financial status, would be unable to afford the necessary hygiene products. For example, a Scotland study showed that 45% of females had to replace tampons or sanitary pads with newspapers, toilet paper etc since they were unable to afford them.

Looking at the brighter side of the issue, a few countries did take action against the unpopular tax. India was one of the countries which led the way in exempting taxation on feminine hygiene products, by abolishing the 12% GST on women's sanitary products in 2018, after numerous campaigns including official court statements, one of which had above 400,000 signatures.

“This was a most-awaited and necessary step to help girls and women to stay in school, their jobs, to practise proper menstrual hygiene.”, said Surbhi Singh, the founder of Sachhi Saheli, which played an extremely important role in the campaigns.

Australia and South Africa followed India by exempting all forms of taxation on female hygiene products, as well. Scotland recently became the first country to make all female hygiene products absolutely free in schools and colleges along with markets. This law came into action through the Period Products Free Provision Bill introduced by Monica Lennon who has been campaigning to stop period poverty since 2016. Most recently, the UK also banned this controversial tax on women’s sanitary products, along with estimating that this act will save roughly 40 pounds for women throughout their lifetime.

However, to this day, a large number of countries still tax women upon their necessary hygiene products such as Hungary with 27%, Sweden with 25%, Iran with 9% and many more. Countries need to take action to ensure the comfortable, non-generalizing and non-discriminatory life that they promise for every citizen. Whether this life is led by a woman, a man, or any other gender, must never pose as an obstruction for a happy and healthy life. For every citizen of the world, is first and foremost, a human with intellect and awareness; and deserves to be treated like it.


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