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regular-article-logo Sunday, 16 June 2024

When pink is a taxing colour

Even the Western definition of the Pink Tax, coined in 1994, as an invisible surcharge imposed on women for products tailored and marketed to them is flawed

Sahastranshu Pandey Published 21.05.24, 07:06 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. Sourced by the Telegraph.

The ‘Pink Tax’ subtly influences the shopping experiences of countless women, imposing an unjustified surcharge on products. Discussions surrounding the Pink Tax also centre around achieving equality primarily between cis-gendered men and women, neglecting the struggles faced by non-binary and LGBTQ+ individuals. But what does the Pink Tax signify?

This tax isn’t confined solely to beauty products; it extends to any situation in which women are charged extra because of their gender. Take, for instance, the concept of the daily commute. While men might only need to consider the basic cost of a ticket or transportation fare, women often find themselves factoring in additional expenses for safety measures. This could mean investing in items like pepper spray and other self-defence tools to mitigate the risks in public transport. Consequently, women end up shouldering a higher financial burden; this illustrates how the Pink Tax permeates various aspects of the daily life of women.

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There’s a misconception prevalent in Indian society that anything novel originates from the West; the Pink Tax is no exception to this misbelief. Evidence from ancient Indian history highlights the existence of phenomena similar to the Pink Tax even in the past. For example, the Mulakkaram, colloquially known as the ‘breast tax’, imposed in the early 19th century by the former kingdom of Travancore on women from Nadar, Ezhava and other lower caste communities, illustrates the imposition of additional levies on women. Another example is the dowry system, still prevalent in India, wherein women are expected to provide financial contributions upon marriage. This payment is justified by the argument that it safeguards against the potential mistreatment of women by the husband and his family. In essence, it is a parallel form of taxation that mirrors the practice of individuals contributing to avail services and protections from the State. However, in the case of dowry, this burden falls disproportionately on women.

Even the Western definition of the Pink Tax, coined in 1994, as an invisible surcharge imposed on women for products tailored and marketed specifically to them is flawed. The definition overlooks situations where the Pink Tax manifests as a visible, overt cost that is justified along gender lines.

The omission of transgender and LGBTQ+ communities from discussions on the Pink Tax underscores pervasive cis-oriented perspectives. There is a glaring absence of data on the economic challenges faced by sexual minorities. This perpetuates their invisibility and signals a collective reluctance to confront gender-based economic discrimination. The connection between them and the Pink Tax lies in how they are impacted by the pricing disparities within products and services. Take, for example, products aimed at the female consumer base. These create pressure on transgender individuals to adhere to gendered expectations. A clear example of this is seen in the pricing of chest binders for trans men that cost more than similar undergarments meant for cisgender individuals. This economic discrepancy, compounded by the imposition of societal norms, imposes a dual burden on transgender individuals.

Significantly, the ramifications of the Pink Tax extend far beyond economic disparities. It isn't limited to overt price discrepancies; it manifests in every instance where individuals encounter unjust social discrimination based on their personal preferences and identities. Thus, it would require concerted efforts to unveil the hidden inequalities so that every shopper is made aware that their femininity — a treasure — can be turned into a tag.

Sahastranshu Pandey is a student at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad

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