The Pink Tax: Inequality should be outlawed

I. Introduction

The compulsory imposition of financial charges by governments on persons and corporations is known as taxation. Taxation is important to accomplish tasks like raising money to pay for public services, dividing the wealth to encourage social justice, monitoring behaviour to solve social issues (such as tobacco, alcohol, or carbon emissions to discourage their consumption), stabilising the economy through fiscal policy, and guaranteeing the provision of necessities for the general public. This includes infrastructure (roads, bridges, public transportation), national defence, public education, healthcare, and social welfare programs. Thus, to maintain a just and functional society, taxes are necessary.

But what is pink tax? Now Men and women need similar products in day-to-day life however, when the goods and services are marketed for women and for which the men pay lesser is termed as pink tax. [i]The difference is that the government does not receive the extra money when a pink-coloured product is sold (the female version) for more than a blue one (the male version). These women-focused products are usually similar in ingredients, textiles, appearance, description and marketing to the men’s products. [ii]The corporations are the only ones who benefit from the “pink tax”. The term “pink tax was coined in the mid-1990s in California when the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995 in the USA, forbade price discrimination on services.”[iii] This gender-based price discrimination is found in several consumer goods, such as clothing, toys for children, personal care products, personal care services, senior care services, and auto services. In addition, the cost of women’s hand tools, hair colour, and undergarments is frequently more than that of men despite the unequal pay package.

II. Understanding the Pink Tax Globally and in the Indian Context

Different States in the USA are pursuing legislation like the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995 [iv]and the “Pink Tax Repeal Act” Bill of 2021 [v]to address this problem and advance justice and equity in the consumer marketplace. Similarly, the UK has initiated the Gender-based Pricing (Prohibition) Bill.[vi] The countries in the European Union like France, Germany, along with countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand have taken steps to address the problem of the pink tax.

India too is not exempt from this phenomenon as it hosts many multinational companies that sell products at a higher rate for women’s personal care products, clothing, and other services. “For example, a disposable blue or black colour razor for men costs around Rs. 20, while a pink disposable razor for ladies’ costs around Rs. 55. This is also true with salon services where a haircut for men, for example, costs around Rs. 150, whereas a haircut for ladies might cost up to Rs. 600 or even more. On similar lines, one of the most generic 150 ml deodorants for men costs ₹114, whereas the cost of an essential women’s deodorant of the same quantity starts from ₹136 onwards on the e-commerce platform.”

Indian culture weighs heavily on the appearance of women where they are required to be presentable. The pink tax negatively affects women as the products are marketed in such a way that makes women think that if they use normal products then it is too harsh for the skin or will harm them in some way which is not true. Also, the packaging is usually colourful, has pictures of women on it, floral designs, attractive, and so forth. Low-income women who are often paid less than men are disproportionately affected by the pink tax, which forces them to choose between necessities and other fundamental requirements in the household. Because of this, the cycle of poverty and inequality persists, making it more difficult for these women to pay for basic needs like food, housing, and medical care. To make matters worse, the pink tax also widens the income disparity between men and women.[vii] In India, men make 82% of the labour pay while women make only 18% for similar work, according to the World Inequality Report 2022. With fewer women having their own money at their disposal, it means they have to depend on others like their father or their husband to sustain them. India has a salary equality score of 0.62 and ranks 135th out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum (WEF) report from 2022 on the gender gap index. This demonstrates how severe the gender pay gap is in India and how it affects the pink tax debate, as women may find it harder to bear the higher costs associated with gender-based pricing. “During the COVID pandemic, women’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 12.8 per cent between February and April 2020, while men’s unemployment rate rose to only 9.9 per cent”. This further impacted women’s purchasing power within the economy.[viii] In addition, the pink tax also exasperates “period poverty” wherein a woman is unable to buy even basic menstrual hygiene products every month. This has led to many campaigns around the world advocating for the elimination of the so-called “tampon tax,” which refers to consumer taxes like value-added tax (VAT) that most countries impose on products like sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and liners.[ix]

III. Legal and Regulatory Framework

The Constitution of India under Articles 14, 15, and 16 emphasises that no citizen shall be subjected to discrimination based on caste, sex, race, or religion. Thus, women too should not be discriminated against based on the products marketed to them with higher price rates.[x] There is no specific legislation in India yet wherein this issue is directly addressed, however, other statutes can be used in the interim to tackle this issue:

  • Consult the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 to Section 2(28) which mentions misleading advertisements and Section 2(47) which mentions unfair trade practices. Furthermore, The Central Consumer Protection Authority can also initiate an inquiry into the matter where an aggrieved woman can file a complaint with either the district, state, or national commission under the Consumer Protection Act.
  • The Competition Act, 2002 under Section 4 a (ii) prohibits an enterprise in India from abusing its dominant position wherein if an enterprise or a group directly or indirectly, imposes unfair or discriminatory— prices in the purchase or sale (including predatory prices) of goods or services.[xi]
  • Tampons and sanitary pads were quickly targeted for revocation when they were classified as luxury goods and subject to a 12% tax. There were challenges and petitions, one of which collected more than 400,000 signatures. The initiative known as “blood tax,” or “Lahu ka Lagaan” in Hindi, was successful when India’s temporary finance minister, Piyush Goyal, declared that sanitary pads were 100% tax-free.[xii]

There is no specific case law or landmark judgment to tackle this issue yet.

V. Challenges and Barriers to Addressing the Pink Tax

Some different issues and challenges pose as challenges and barriers to addressing the pink tax.

  • Lack of awareness among women

Many women are not aware of the Pink Tax’s existence or scope in the products they use which makes it challenging for them to identify instances in which they are being unfairly charged. Their inability to speak up for themselves and oppose unfair pricing practices stems from this ignorance. Recently in 2024 Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw on her Twitter (X) handle, sharply reacted to a video on ‘Pink Tax’. She condemned the bias, urging women to boycott such products.

  • Lack of action by companies

Concerns over profitability, market perception, or internal prejudices may be the reason why several global corporations, such as Gilette, GAP, and others, are reluctant to confront the Pink Tax. The progress towards gender equality in pricing is restricted in the absence of aggressive initiatives by firms to eradicate gender-based pricing inequalities.

  • Lack of knowledge about Implementation Bodies

There are insufficient enforcement mechanisms due to the lack of knowledge among consumers. Many people are unaware that registered users can complain online with the National Consumer Helpline portal of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. They need to register themselves with the portal to file or lodge their complaints online and also check the status of already filed complaints. Additionally, the Integrated Grievance Redressal Mechanism (IGRAM) states that grievance officers must acknowledge a complaint within 48 hours and resolve it within one month.

  • Lack of corporate accountability

It is difficult to hold companies responsible for their pricing decisions when there is a lack of transparency and accountability in corporate processes. In the absence of accountability and transparency procedures, businesses might be free to carry out discriminatory pricing practices. Therefore, it is important to be a smart shopper and encourage purchases from establishments with gender-neutral pricing [xiii]

V. Probable Solution to outlaw this inequality

Several approaches may be used to deal with the problems caused by the Pink Tax. Promoting informed consumer behaviour is essential so that women make knowledgeable purchase decisions. Furthermore, incorporating successful legislative proposals from other nations into the Indian context can aid in the official outlawing of the Pink Tax. Another useful strategy is to use the legal system through Public Interest Litigation (PIL). PILs can promote legislative changes and increase public awareness of unfair pricing practices. Moreover, online public sign campaigns and petitions can support consumer activism. In addition, cultural and sociological factors that perpetuate these inequities should also be questioned.

VI. Conclusion

The Pink Tax is a major problem that requires a variety of approaches to be solved. Customers must be made aware of gender-based price discrepancies in addition to formalising discriminatory pricing practices through the adoption of legal efforts from other countries. Public campaigns and Public Interest Litigation (PIL) are useful tools for advocating policy changes and increasing public awareness. To successfully eliminate gender-based price discrepancies, however, issues such as a lack of knowledge, corporate inertia, and inadequate knowledge on enforcement mechanisms must be addressed. These disparities are sustained by societal norms and deeply rooted cultural practices, necessitating careful analysis and intervention.

-Annie Cardoz

Adv.Balasaheb Apte College of Law, Mumbai.


[i]Amy Fontinelle, What is the pink tax? Impact on women, regulation, and laws Investopedia (2023), https://www.investopedia.com/pink-tax-5095458 (last visited Apr 6, 2024).

[ii] Yang, J., García Pérez, M., Bouzid, N. and Madroñal Colomé, N., 2020. Bye bye pink tax: The Gillette case study. Chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://repositori.upf.edu/bitstream/handle/10230/46278/Yang_etalt_byebyepinktax_MUDFI2.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

[iii] Lane Gillespie, The pink tax: Latest updates and Statistics Bankrate (2023), https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/pink-tax-how-women-pay-more/#key-insights (Accessed: 12 March 2024). (last visited Apr 6, 2024).

[iv] Code section (no date) Law section. Available at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=51.6. (Accessed: 14 March 2024).

[v] (No date) H.R.3853 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Pink Tax Repeal … Available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3853/all-actions?s=1&r=10&overview=closed

 (Accessed: 12 March 2024).

[vi] Gender-based Pricing (Prohibition) Bill (no date) Parliamentary Bills. Available at: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2724 (Accessed: 12 March 2024).

[vii] Manisha (2023) Pink tax: An examination of gender-based pricing disparities and implications for women’s Economic Equality, Legally Flawless (2024), https://legallyflawless.in/pink-tax-examination-gender-pricing-disparities-implications-womens-economic-equality/#google_vignette (last visited Apr 6, 2024)

[viii]Hannah Guo, Think pink: Analyzing the history and future of the Pink Tax The Varsity (2022), https://thevarsity.ca/2022/01/09/history-and-future-of-pink-tax/#:~:text=The%20pink%20tax%20in%20Canada&text=Ontario%20attempted%20to%20introduce%20a,against%20the%20Human%20Rights%20Code (last visited Apr 6, 2024).

[ix] Kalyani B Nair, Discrimination taxation: Is pink tax a boon or Bane? Taxscan (2024), https://www.taxscan.in/discrimination-taxation-is-pink-tax-a-boon-or-bane/360931/#google_vignette

 (last visited Apr 6, 2024).

[x] Vedanti Vanjari, Pink tax Legal Service India – Law, Lawyers and Legal Resources, https://legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-9185-pink-tax.html#google_vignette

 (last visited Apr 6, 2024).

[xi] The Competition Act 2022

[xii] BBC India Scraps Tampon tax after campaign, BBC News (2018), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-44912742

 (last visited Apr 6, 2024).

[xiii] Rajat Saxena ‘A LEGAL STUDY OF THE APPLICABILITY OF PINK TAX IN INDIA ’ (2022) , International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts, 10(8).

chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://ijcrt.org/papers/IJCRT2208172.pdf