Pink Tax: An Examination of Gender-Based Pricing Disparities and Implications for Women’s Economic Equality

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“Taxes are universal burden in moral as well as in civil life. There is no pleasure, social or otherwise, which is not assessed by fate at its full value”

                                                                                         – Alfred De Musset

The aforementioned remark from a French dramatist throws light on the onerous burden of taxes imposed on inhabitants of any country. To support this claim, Henry Hezlitt, a prominent Wall Street Journal business and economic journalist, argues that the rising tax burden not only erodes individual motivation to increase labour and income, but also degrades capital accumulation, distorts production, and creates imbalances. Through his astute economic analysis, Mr. Hezlitt effectively conveyed the macroeconomic ramifications of the ever-increasing tax burden.

Retrospectively, it is clear that the modern structure of levying direct and indirect taxes in India can be traced back to the ancient treatises of Arthashashtra and Manu smriti. The real execution of this system, however, was ushered in by Sir James Wilson, first finance minister of India, with the passage of the first Income Tax Act in 1860. The underlying motivations of the British for enacting the income tax law became clear during the turbulent 1880s, when the British Empire needed to raise funds to engage in a fierce war with Russia.[1] Based on this historical data, it appears that the current scenario of imposing taxes on individuals bears a striking resemblance to the former British colonial goal in 1980.In contrast to the historical trend of increasing tax income to finance war, the current government has nobler intentions. Citizens’ tax dollars are used to build important infrastructure projects such as roads, railroads, bridges, flyovers, dams, and other engineering marvels. The government also ensures the safety and security of its people by strengthening the police and defence forces. It also supports critical public services such as municipal and council functions, among others. When considered rationally, it is clear that the taxes placed on taxpayers are judiciously invested in the greater good of society.

The purpose of taxation has evolved dramatically over history. While the pink tax is a relatively new phenomena that has received significant notice in recent years, it symbolises a long-standing problem that has afflicted women all over the world. The term “pink tax” refers to the problematic price gap that women confront when purchasing items and services that are identical to those advertised to males. This unjust and discriminatory approach to pricing is not restricted to a specific industry or region, and it has been witnessed in countries all over the world, including India, a lively and diverse country. Despite its brief existence, the pink tax is a deeply embedded issue that relates to larger social and economic inequities that continue to hurt women in various ways.

The Cost of Being a Woman: Unveiling The Pink Tax Phenomenon

The Arthashastra, an ancient Indian classic on statecraft and economics, investigates several types of taxes, including sales taxes and levies on luxury products. Taxation has become an important part of the Indian economy. The Indian government levies a variety of taxes, including income tax, sales tax, and customs duty. The pink tax is a novel idea that originated in the late twentieth century when women’s rights movements gained traction.

The Pink tax is the increased cost charged to women for specific commodities or services when compared to men. The ‘pink tax’ is the extra cost women pay for goods that are largely the same as those marketed to men but are packaged or designed differently to appeal to female purchasers. The term ‘pink tax’ was used in the early 2010s in the United States to describe gender-based pricing disparities experienced by women when purchasing consumer products. Women utilised social media to publish examples of how women were charged more than males for the same items, giving rise to the term ‘gender disparity’. The term “pink tax” has gained traction in India in recent years, with media outlets and consumer groups adopting it to draw attention to the issue of gender-based pricing disparities. A 2017 report in The Times of India, for example, raised awareness of the issue by citing examples of women being charged more for things such as deodorants and razors. The pink tax applies to personal care items such as shampoo, razors, and deodorant, as well as home items such as cleaning supplies and clothing.

The modern-day introduction of the pink tax highlights ongoing concerns about gender-based discrimination and the importance of continuing efforts to promote gender equality in all aspects of society. This phenomenon is not restricted to one country, but is found all around the world, including India.

The Pink Tax: An Essential Issue That Demands Recognition

The pink tax, a widespread phenomenon, warrants our attention for a variety of reasons. For starters, it is an example of subtle gender discrimination that maintains archaic gender norms and exacerbates gender inequality. Women, who already face unequal wages in many parts of the world, are frequently forced to pay extra for items and services advertised only to them based on their gender.

Early Documentation of Gender Based Discrimination

Gender-based pricing disparities have existed for a long time, and several examples may be found throughout history. For example, in the early twentieth century, dry cleaners charged women more than men to clean their shirts, despite the fact that the apparel was made of the same materials. According to a study titled ‘From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer’ conducted by the prestigious ‘New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’, women consistently pay at least twice as much as men during more than half of their shopping experiences. An extensive study examined over 800 different products and showed that items marketed towards women cost a whopping 7% more than equivalent products marketed towards their male counterparts.[2] For basic hygiene products like razors, deodorants, and body wash, women pay more than men.[3] Another survey conducted in 2018 by the local consumer watchdog, Consumer Voice, discovered that women pay 25% more for cosmetics and personal care items than males. This terrible trend feeds a destructive circle of gender-based oppression, which we must work tirelessly to eradicate.

The pink tax has a greater impact than merely an additional cost; it has an impact that transcends beyond the cost of a single product. This charge is particularly burdensome for low-income women, requiring them to choose between acquiring essential goods and meeting other basic needs. This can feed a vicious cycle of poverty and inequality, making it more difficult for these women to afford other necessities like housing, healthcare, and even food. Beyond the consumer market, the pink tax has the potential to deepen economic gaps between men and women.

Causes of Pink Tax

While the pink tax has received an array of limelight in recent years, the fundamental origins of the phenomena are complicated and multidimensional.

Marketing and Packaging

Marketing and packaging are two of the primary variables of the pink tax. Companies frequently promote items to women using language and images that reinforce gender stereotypes, such as the use of pink and floral themes or the emphasis on ‘feminine’ attributes such as gentleness and nurturing. This form of marketing might create the impression that things targeted to women are intrinsically distinct or superior to similar products offered to males, justifying a higher price tag. Furthermore, packaging aimed at women is frequently more ornate and colourful, contributing to the perceived value and, eventually, the price of the product. According to research undertaken by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, women’s items cost 7% more than equivalent products promoted to men. The survey also discovered that women’s products were frequently packaged in a way that emphasised luxury or higher quality, which contributed to the higher price tag.[4]

Societal Expectations and Gender Roles

Social expectations and gender norms can also have an impact on the pink tax. Women are usually expected to take on additional domestic and caregiving responsibilities, which may increase demand for cleaning supplies and personal care items. Companies may profit from this by charging higher costs for female-oriented products. Furthermore, societal norms usually place a larger value on men’s labour and labour, contributing to the gender pay gap and making the pink tax burden more difficult to bear for women.

Systemic Discrimination

The pink tax also involves systemic discrimination. Women have historically been paid less than males for comparable work and have been excluded from some professions and sectors.  Discrimination against women in the workplace, particularly the gender wage gap, can contribute to a lack of economic power and make them more vulnerable to pricing discrimination. Furthermore, a lack of inexpensive and accessible healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, can force women to spend more for basic products such as tampons and menstruation pads.

Impact of Pink Tax

Economic inequality: The pink tax increases economic inequality by putting a financial burden on women, especially low-income women. This can create a cycle of poverty in which women must choose between purchasing necessities and meeting other fundamental needs[5]

Perpetuation of Gender Stereotypes: The pink tax reinforces negative gender stereotypes that assign distinct obligations and expectations to men and women. The pink tax on personal care products, for example, underscores that women must be responsible for their own appearance, which is more important than men’s. This perpetuates the idea that women should be rated based on their beauty rather than their qualities and talents.

Implications for Individuals and Society as a Whole: The pink tax can have a variety of harmful consequences for individuals and society. For example, it can limit women’s purchasing power and access to essential products.[6] It can also foster detrimental gender stereotypes and lead to economic inequality. Addressing the pink tax is thus a vital step towards fostering gender equality and creating a more just society.

Current Status Of Pink Tax

The pink tax is still prominent in India, despite growing awareness of the pink tax in recent years. Gender-based pricing discrepancies still exist in many consumer goods categories. The situation is most serious in low-income households, where women are frequently forced to choose between buying essentials and meeting other basic needs. The gender salary disparity exacerbates the pink tax problem in India. India has a big female population that faces severe social and economic issues. According to the World Inequality Report 2022, the gender pay gap is equally considerable in India, with males earning 82% of the labour pay and women earning only 18% for comparable work.[7]According to a World Economic Forum (WEF) research from 2022, India ranks 135th out of 146 nations on the gender gap index, with a wage equality score of 0.62.[8]This underscores India’s huge gender pay inequality and its significance to the pink tax issue, as women may struggle even more to endure the additional expense of gender-based pricing.

Addressing The Pink Tax: Advocacy and Policy Solutions

The ‘pink tax’ has been a recurring issue for women all around the world. Due to the arbitrary and discriminatory pricing of products and services based on gender, women pay more for identical commodities than men. This practise has particularly severe effects on low-income women who are striving to make ends meet. To disrupt the loop of gender-based pricing, collaborative action at the individual, societal, and institutional levels is required. The following are some examples of collective actions:

Description of Consumer Advocacy Skills

Consumer advocacy coalitions try to raise awareness about the pink tax and put pressure on companies and policymakers to address the issue. In India, consumer advocacy initiatives have focused on raising awareness about gender-based pricing discrimination and encouraging gender-neutral pricing.[9] Social media campaigns, online petitions, and protests have all been used in these initiatives. Some initiatives have also urged the government to solve the pink tax through law or regulation.    Sugar Cosmetics, an Indian cosmetics business, began a campaign in December 2021 called “Price is Not a Gender,” which attempted to raise awareness about gender-based pricing discrimination in the beauty sector. The campaign included a video in which women voiced their dissatisfaction with the pink tax and advocated for gender-neutral pricing.[10] A poll of 2,000 Indian women was also conducted as part of the campaign, and the results revealed that 87% of respondents had experienced gender-based pricing discrimination while shopping for personal care products. According to the survey, 74% of respondents were willing to switch to a brand that offered gender-neutral pricing.    Sugar Cosmetics has pledged to charge gender-neutral prices for all of its products, and the company’s co-founder, Vineeta Singh, has urged other cosmetic companies to follow suit.

Legislative Action

In recent years, the pink tax has gained momentum in India, with legislators and consumer groups calling for action to address gender-based pricing discrepancies. However, there is no specific legislation in India regulating the pink tax, and the issue is mostly unregulated.

 The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, is an important law in India that protects consumers from unfair trade practices. The Act, on the other hand, contains no mention of gender-based pricing disparities, leaving buyers with no legal remedy.

Gender-Inclusive Marketing

Rethinking product strategy can help to build a more inclusive and equal marketplace. Companies can make their products more gender-neutral by challenging gender stereotypes in marketing and packaging. Gender-inclusive marketing can potentially boost profits by appealing to a bigger audience.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown in importance in India, with many businesses taking initiatives to address social and environmental challenges. While there is no legal requirement for businesses to address the pink tax, several have taken voluntary initiatives to do so.[11] In India, corporate responsibility measures to combat the pink tax include initiatives such as gender-neutral pricing, product discounts for women, and collaboration with NGOs to give cheap products to women. Furthermore, some businesses have taken steps to address the underlying causes of the pink tax, such as gender-based wage discrimination.[12]Companies are narrowing the gender pay disparity brick by brick.    Several Indian companies have taken efforts to address the pink tax. In 2017, Hindustan Unilever, for example, started a campaign named “Unstereotype” to encourage gender equality in advertising and pricing.[13] As part of the marketing, the firm cut the price of its women’s shampoo to the same level as its men’s shampoo. In 2018, online retailer Flipkart established a “No Cost EMI” scheme for women, allowing them to purchase things with no interest or other costs. In addition, the company collaborated with non-governmental organisations to supply affordable menstrual supplies to women in rural areas.[14] Sugar Cosmetics, an Indian personal care brand, is another example, with gender-neutral pricing for its lipsticks, eye makeup palettes, and other beauty goods.[15] Furthermore, some businesses have made initiatives to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination, which is one of the main reasons of the pink tax. For example, in 2017, the tech company Salesforce performed a company-wide pay audit to guarantee that male and female employees were paid similarly for the same work.[16]

While corporate responsibility attempts to address the pink tax in India are praiseworthy, their breadth and impact are limited. Many businesses just deal with the problem on a case-by-case basis, rather than making systemic changes. Furthermore, these efforts are frequently limited to urban areas and do not aid rural women, who may have less access to economical products.[17] Furthermore, firms may engage in “pinkwashing,” or making apparent efforts to address the pink tax in order to improve their image without making real changes to their pricing practises. As a result, it is vital for firms to be open about their pricing practises and to ensure that their efforts to prevent the pink tax are comprehensive and significant.


“Gender inequality is not a women’s issue, it’s a human issue”

                                                                                          ~  Amartya Sen

Beyond product pricing inequalities, the pink tax problem extends to the continuation of gender stereotypes and systemic discrimination. As Indian culture progresses towards gender equality, addressing the pink tax is crucial to achieving economic fairness and social equity. “Gender equality is not a women’s issue; it’s a human issue,” Nobel laureate Amartya Sen famously stated. Not only does the pink tax hurt women’s economic well-being, but it also perpetuates harmful beliefs and traditional gender norms. Addressing this issue is the responsibility of both the government and the business sector. Companies must play an active role in dispelling gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality, while the government must establish legislation and regulations to remove gender-based pricing disparities.

This article is authored by Manisha, 4th year Law Student at Bennett University.

[1]  History Of Income Tax In India, available at: (last visited July 12, 2023)

[2] New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, “From cradle to cane: The cost of being a female consumer: A study of gender pricing in New York City”, (Consumer Affairs 2015)

[3] The Cost of Personal Hygiene: How Much Do Americans Spend Each Year, available at: (last visited July 12, 2023)

[4] Supra Note 2.

[5] Mackenzi Lafferty, “The Pink Tax: The Persistence of Gender Price Disparity”, 11 Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research 61 (2019)

[6] What is the ‘pink tax’ and how does it hinder women, available at:,have%20full%20and%20equal%20access%20to%20economic%20participation (last visited July 12,2023).

[7] International Equal Pay Day 2022: How Far Has India Filled The Gap, available at: (last visited on July 12, 2023).

[8]World Economic Forum, “Global Gender Gap Report 2022”, (July 2022).

[9] Gauri Mehra, “It is Time for our Community to Come Together against Divisive Pink Tax”, The Print, June 02,2021, available at: (last visited on July13,2023).

[10] Sugar Cosmetics, Price is Not a Gender, available at: (last visited on April 10, 2023).

[11] Indian companies take steps to end gender-based pricing, availableat: (last visited 14 April 2023).

[12] Kala Vijayaraghavan and  Richa Bhattacharya, “Companies commit to equal pay pledge”, Economic Times, September 03,2023, available at: (last visited on July 13, 2023)

[13] How Stereotype Aims to Change the Way We See Gender, available at: visited on 10 April 2023).

[14] Flipkart introduces ‘No Cost EMI’ option for products meant for women, available at: (last visited on April 10 2023)

[15] Sugar Cosmetics introduces gender-neutral pricing, available at: (last visited on April 10, 2023)

[16]The Two Women Who Kicked Off Salesforce’s Company-Wide Salary Review, available at: (last visited on July 12, 2023).

[17] Dr. K.L. Chandrashekhara, “Corporate Social Responsibility in India: Issues and Challenges”, 4 Law Audience Journal 6 (2022).

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