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Not so 'Pretty in Pink' - A Look at the Injustices of the Pink Tax

Updated: Jan 18


a woman holding a box of sanitary pads while pink notes fly around

Image credit: Healthline


What is the Pink Tax?

The Gender Tax, or Pink Tax, as it is widely known, is the extra payment that women have to make when they avail services - from personal care products to apparel and even toys. This is a discriminatory practice that, although not sanctioned by the law, occurs as a result of faulty business practices that aim to extort more money from female consumers based on the market demand and pricing strategies. These disparities are most visible in the personal care arena - with women's products costing a whopping 13 per cent more than those for men, as seen from a study conducted by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in 2015. In studies conducted in the UK, a 12 per cent hike was seen in the price of school uniforms for female students - a stark reminder of the lengths to which gender disparity can go. In Singapore, women were compelled to pay higher premiums for CareShield life, a national long-term care insurance scheme of the government, a saddening example of government-mandated gender inequalities. In India too, women are economically exploited by vegan or cruelty-free products, another portrayal of how even developing countries have fallen into this trap women have, since time immemorial, been on the receiving end of the adverse effects of patriarchy. While this becomes more pronounced in global economic phenomena like the gender pay gap or other oppressive social customs, what often remains overlooked are the simpler ways of encompassing even everyday activities into the aegis of this cruel concept. In this article, the author attempts to put into light the atrocities levied by one such concept - the ‘Pink Tax’, a price increase put unjustly on goods marketed towards women, or to say simply pink products...


The Implications

Women earn significantly less than men, even when working in the same positions. Increased price for basic requirements in such a scenario forbids them from affording necessary items with the situation being even worse for low-income females.

It also brings another problem into purview - with high rates for basic products, families on a budget might cut down on their female counterparts' requirements, a prime example being that of sanitary napkins and other menstrual hygiene products. Women and their needs are then constantly sidelined because they are deemed to be unnecessarily expensive and consequently burdensome on the family income. Women pay higher for something as universal as health insurance to cover up costs for pregnancy and consecutive childcare. In a world where pro-life debates ignite a spark everyday, and abortion is increasingly seen as a barbaric activity, isn't it ironic that the governments do not want to bear the responsibility of the life that they so passionately argue for?

Basic needs like pads and tampons are also not free of tax, which shows how they are viewed as luxury items, and not essential requirements - again an instance of shunning women's voices and demands, and their right to a dignified life.

The 'Blood Tax', or 'Lahu ka Lagan', as the 12% GST on sanitary napkins was popularly called in India, was only removed after continued activism, and this shows how education and awareness too play an important role in putting an end to systemic inequalities. The Pink Tax is a fairly western concept; therefore, adequate knowledge about its adversities is imperative to minimize its consequences.

What also happens through such unjust economic systems is that even when women practically spend on a similar level as men, their expenditure is branded as overspending on luxuries, and their behaviour is disrespectful towards familial duties. This casts a negative shadow over their hard work, while also reducing their significance and importance in the household. It puts a mental burden on women to always search for the best deals that save their hard-earned money, negotiate tirelessly, and still end up bearing the brunt of messing the family budget.

The problem, I believe, also arises from the 'dumb blonde' stereotype - women are seen as pretty objects that can be wooed through a little shimmer and glitter and coaxed into buying stuff that is unnecessarily overpriced. They are portrayed as drooling over materialistic beauty, and wasting money on expenses that can very well be curbed down. Indeed, in today's world, where extra care and control is placed on a woman's appearance, both internal and external, the Pink Tax only aggravates their problems, making life a vicious circle of low wages and high expenses (note the usage of expenses, and not expenditures).


The Responses

While the Tax is not actually levied by the government per se, women do face its repercussions everyday, and this is what has exhorted governments to step in and take concrete action to curb its ill effects.

While laws in several American states like New York and California have explicitly condemned discriminatory pricing, making it illegal to indulge in this practice, the US as a whole is yet to pass the perhaps forgotten 'Pink Tax Repeal Act' so as to altogether restrict the practice in the world's largest representative of capitalism.

In India, the concept is not widely known and acknowledged, with studies showing only 23% Indians are aware of the Tax. In such a scenario, the government passing any law against it would not only be seen as futile but also an unnecessary intervention into the market economy. Nevertheless, previous agitations in the country have proven how when people rise against injustice, they are adequately compensated with legislations that safeguard their rights.

Although it might not be as prominent as in the first world countries, the issue of overpriced commodities is the reality and only a system where women are treated with equal respect as their male counterparts can stop this unjust set up.


The Way Forward

The Pink Tax is in essence, the manifestation of a rampant problem: how women have to struggle a little bit harder each day for even the most basic necessities. When everyday items face excessive inflation, they fall out of the reach of the average citizen, and hinder their ability to meet a decent living standard. Simply increasing the prices of commodities for women without any valid reason goes on to show how the societal fabric has been sewn in a way to always make living burdensome for women.

The Pink Tax is just one of the hundreds of unjust practices that women are a recipient of, but it still remains one of the lesser known forms of gender disparities. Increased awareness about the issue, coupled with active government intervention to limit its propagation is the path towards which we should be heading for now. Till then, perhaps negotiating for better prices with the shopkeepers and hoping for more accommodating and woke economic laws is all we can do.

 

By- Inika Choudhary

Inika Choudhary is a student of Hindu College, University of Delhi, pursuing Bachelors in Arts with History as her major. She has a fond adoration for literature, music, and social sciences. With a firm belief in the power of words, she has always strived to be vocal about rampant social issues and is a writer with a keen interest in themes relating to gender and inequalities.

 

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