IN THE PINK

Do you pay more for life just by vir tue of be­ing a woman? This may be so in some parts of the world due to “Pink Tax”, yet the sit­u­a­tion in Malaysia may sur­prise you. By Meghan An­gel­ica Paul.

CLEO (Malaysia) - - SMART -

If you’ve been keep­ing up with your femme news and global af­fairs, you’ll know that eve nina first-world coun­try such as the United States of Amer­ica, in 2018, women are still be­ing taxed for es­sen­tial items that in­clude men­strual prod­ucts. Sure, that’ s un­der­stand­able f rom a gov­ern­ment ’s per­spec­tive you say — but when Vi­a­gra and chap stick are ex­empt from tax, it sud­denly reeks of gen­der in­equal­ity. Glob­ally, we know that women are worse off at the work­place—of­ten earn­ing way less than their male coun­ter­parts. And yes, there is a gen­der pay gap in Malaysia, sur­prise, sur­prise! Re­cent sta­tis­tics show that in Malaysia, women ac­counted for only 15.2 per­cent of di­rec­tor po­si­tions in the top 100 pub­lic-listed com­pa­nies and that the av­er­age monthly salary for women is four per­cent less than that of men de­spite hav­ing t he same qual­i­fi­ca­tions .

And be­cause of the state of the world econ­omy, and gen­er­ally just how our con­sumerist world works, women also have to pay more for things that are specif­i­cally meant for their health and safety, like men­strual prod­ucts and con­tra­cep­tives. What gives?

THE START­ING PE­RIOD

Be­fore we go any fur­ther, let’ s just make it clear: Men­stru­a­tion is not taboo. It’ s noth­ing un­usual. Women have bled since the start of hu­mankind, so it’ s pure na­ture. It hap­pens to us, and it’ s out of our con­trol. We need prod­ucts that help us stay com­fort­able and use­ful dur­ing those five to seven days each and ever y month.

Have you ever won­dered what women did back in the day when they had their pe­riod? Ac­cord­ing to Fem­meIn­ter­na­tional.org, the first dis­pos­able pad was cre­ated by nurses in France when they were look­ing for new ways to stop ex­ces­sive bleed­ing on the bat­tle­field. The first dis­pos­able pad then came in 1888 called the South ball pad. Women back in the days had to cre­ative ly think of ways to han­dle their pe­ri­ods all while not ru­in­ing their clothes—from us­ing pa­pyrus fib res to wood wrapped in lint for a makeshift tam­pon. Now we live in an age where we don’t stuff our­selves with pa­per fib res—ho or ah! So let’ s take a look at the sit­u­a­tion of the“Pink Tax” in the world and in Malaysia.

TAX: CRAMPING OUR STYLE

Ac­cord­ing to In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness Times, Kenya be­came the first coun­try to abol­ish sales tax for men­strual prod­ucts back in 2004. Canada said good­bye to the na­tional goods and ser­vices tax on men­strual prod­ucts in 2015, thanks to politi­cian Irene Mathyssen’s cam­paign­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Vice.com Canada, Mathyssen now has her sights set on low­er­ing the

high cost of birth con­trol in Canada. Some of the coun­tries that re­cently scrapped the tax in­clude In­dia and Aus­tralia.

In July 2017, the Mau­ri­tian gov­ern­ment scrapped the 15% tax that the cit­i­zens were pay­ing on san­i­tary prod­ucts. Other coun­tries such as Ja­maica, Nicaragua, Nige­ria , Tan­za­nia and Le­banon aren’t be­ing t axed. There are, how­ever, coun­tries that im­pose high tax rates on men­strual prod­ucts such as Italy (22%) and Ger­many (19%). The French par­lia­ment had voted back in 2015 to lower the coun­try’ s tam­pon tax from 20% to 5.5%, just like in the United King­dom.

De­spite all this, things are bit more com­pli­cated in the United States. In July 2016, New York scrapped the tax on san­i­tary prod­ucts but they were not the first. Be­tween 1975 and 2005, Mas­sachusetts, Min­nesota, Penn­syl­va­nia, New Jersey, Mary­land, Florida, Illi­nois, and Con­necti­cut had dropped the tam­pon tax. Ci­ties such as Delaware, Oregon, Mon­tana, New Hamp­shire and Alaska do not have the tam­pon tax be­cause they do not have sales t ax to be­gin with.

IS MALAYSIA GO­ING WITH THE FLOW?

Ad­mit­ted ly, we’ve taken a step in the right di­rec­tion. The in­ter­net went abuzz when The Star On­line had re­leased a re­port stat­ing that Malaysia would no longer be charg­ing Pink Tax to men­stru­a­tion prod­ucts such as san­i­tary pads, panty­liner sand tam­pons. On 30 Au­gust 2018, Cus­toms Depart­ment deputy di­rec­tor- gen­eral Datuk Seri Subro­ma­niam Tho­lasy con­firmed dur­ing a me­dia brief­ing that san­i­tary prod­ucts were one of the 5,443 gen­eral goods that were tax-ex­empt. Pre­vi­ously, GST had cat­e­gorised panty­liner sand san­i­tary pads un­der“beauty and health prod­ucts ”. Panty lin­ers, san­i­tary pads and tam­pons are ex­empted from the Sales and Ser­vice Tax( SST) that is set at ei­ther 5% or 10% herein Malaysia.

The ex­emp­tion of Pink Tax comes as a re­lief to t he 15.7 mil­lion women in Malaysia as they’ ve had to pay the 6% GST for men­strual prod­ucts be­fore it was zero-rated on June 1,2018.

How­ever, this brings at­ten­tion to other fem­i­nine needs that should be tax-free. What about men­strual Panadol? Other painkillers? Birth con­trol? If they aren’t , then why not? If we are go­ing to ease the bur­den of women all around Malaysia, why not take it one step fur­ther and make other fem­i­nine items free from tax? It would be a fan­tas­tic idea to take the next step, and con­sider forms of birth con­trol as tax-ex­empt.

If we want to ease the bur­den of women all over Malaysia, why not take it one step fur­ther and make other fem­i­nine items free of tax?

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