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“Pink Tax” removed from women’s sanitary products in Belize

Headline“Pink Tax” removed from women’s sanitary products in Belize

Photo: H.E. Rossana Briceño, the Special Envoy for the Development of Families and Children; Seidi Queztzal – activist – Don’t Tax My Femininity Campaign 

by Marco Lopez 

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 13, 2023 

A “pink tax” refers to the extra money women are charged for certain products or services marketed specifically to them. The gender-based price disparity has long imposed an economic burden on women, the World Economic Forum stated in 2022. While it is not an actual tax present in the line items of budgets – activists advocating for women’s rights from across the world have lobbied for the removal of the extra costs attached to the products women must purchase due to the absence of legislation that would remove certain charges that are included in the price of these necessary items. In Belize, Seidi Quetzal’s work to end “period poverty” through the “Don’t Tax My Femininity Campaign” has yielded some results: the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, announced all taxes will be removed from sanitary products for women effective April 1, 2023, during last Friday’s House of Representatives meeting. 

“A few weeks ago, after a passionate appeal from my wife, the Special Envoy for the Development of Families and Children, as well as the Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs, Hon. Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Cabinet determined that effective 1st April all taxes will be removed from sanitary products for women,” PM Briceño said during his speech. 

The announcement was made as the representatives and the country continue to observe Women’s Month – and the removal of the taxes has been warmly received. Present at the House of Representatives sitting was the Special Envoy for Women and Children, H.E Rossana Briceño, who was recognized along with the activist, Quetzal, and Hon. Balderamos for their lobbying work that prompted the decision.

The PM in his remarks said, “It is past time that we put an end to taxing women’s femininity, something she attributed to young Seidi Quetzal who is running a campaign, ‘Don’t Tax My Femininity’.”

The 28-year-old, who recently returned to Belize after studying in Taiwan, is the local brainchild of the anti-pink-tax campaign in Belize. She shared that the initiative started in January of this year when she first went on a fact-finding mission about the topic in Belize.

“I started this initiative in January. I wanted to get the facts first. I did a survey within the Belmopan community. I went on Sun Up on 7 also issuing this survey so we could basically say we got an overview of all of Belize, and it was amazing to see that employed women and unemployed have a struggle when buying these sanitary products,” Quetzal said.

After gathering the facts, she began her lobby to key government personnel using the data gathered in a compiled fact sheet to buttress her argument for zero taxes on feminine sanitation products. She shared that this win is just one step to ending gender-based price disparities across all sectors of Belizean society, not just personal care products.

“By removing these taxes, it’s just one step to ending period poverty. The next step is to do an educational campaign to schools, also to provide sanitary products to schools free of cost,” Quetzal said.

She shared that before the decision, taxes imposed on sanitary products included a 20% importation tax; and after the 20%, a 3% environmental tax was added, then the 12.5 % GST.

“So, total we have 35.5 % of taxes added to sanitary products. Today I am glad to say that we are at zero. Getting to know the facts, I asked the women, ‘Do you face a financial barrier when purchasing these products?’, and 87% of them said ‘yes’. Employed or non-employed, this campaign is for the women who are single mothers, the women who are disabled, and the girls going to school,” she shared.

And while women will be positively impacted directly by this decision taken by Cabinet, men in single-father households and other breadwinners will also see some price relief at the counter when purchasing these items for loved ones.

“I think this campaign is for the family. It’s something that the women use, but it costs the family in general,” Quetzal said.

“In the United States, one government study analysed 800 gender-specific products from nearly 100 brands. The report found that, on average, personal care products targeted to women were 13% more expensive than similar men’s products. Accessories and adult clothing were 7% and 8% more expensive, respectively. The study concluded that ‘women are paying thousands of dollars more over the course of their lives to purchase similar products as men’,” an article from the World Economic Forum states. 

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