Women, Make Noise for Tax Justice! Make Taxes Work For Women!

Statement on the Global Days of Action on #TaxJustice for Women’s Rights

8-20 March 2020

The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) stands in solidarity with women and women’s rights activists across the world in celebrating International Women’s Day this month of March. We join the Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ) and the Tax and Fiscal Justice-Asia (TAFJA) in launching this year’s Global Days of Action for Tax Justice for Women’s Rights. Once again we call attention to the different and disproportionate ways by which women’s lives are negatively affected by tax and fiscal policies, on the one hand, and on the other hand, how tax revenues or revenues foregone from illicit financial flows can and should be mobilized to fund critical and essential services women need and support other measures needed to address inequalities.

Life should have much more to offer. Women knew this when they marched for bread and roses, when they rejected convention to assert their right to education and the right to vote, when they defied social taboos to speak out against violence, when they marched for the right to work and equal wages.

As International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world through month-long activities this March, let us join in solidarity by raising our voices and making noise about the injustices, perennial ills, and, emerging issues that hinder women from enjoying their rights and pursuing aspirations for life in all its fullness.

The statistics show movement forward. 2018 marked 100 years of near universal right to vote for women. There are now 144 countries with laws against domestic violence and 154 countries against sexual harassment. There are women who hold positions of power and exercise leadership in many fields. Yet there is international consensus that the world is nowhere near achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment goals that governments themselves have committed to.

Celebrations of achievements go hand in hand with many battles being fought. In the Philippines, epidemics, disasters, iniquitous tax reform, labor contractualization, inflation, will be among the issues to be raised at women’s action across the country. In India, the focus of protests of many women’s groups is the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill of 2019 that excludes Muslims and will render Muslim refugees and immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh stateless and facing increased discrimination and religious persecution. In Pakistan and several other countries, movements and organizations will raise issues of gender discrimination in tax systems and public spending, and press for a stop to the bleeding of financial resources that deprive communities of essential social services as part of the Global Days of Action for Tax Justice for Women’s Rights. Groups across Asia will hold actions on the climate emergency and failure of governments to ensure adaptation and mitigation mechanisms.

The real condition for millions of women becomes clear in such dire situations. As the principal child-rearers, care-givers and homemakers in most families and communities, women and girls carry a heavier share of ensuring the basic needs of their families in times of sickness, want, discrimination, and conflict. The gap between the status of men and women reveals itself to be a chasm as women are disproportionally impacted and even impoverished globally.

The Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum estimates that at the current rate of progress it will take another 202 years to close the economic gender gap. This is, however, not just a matter of time. Instead of listening to women’s voices and solutions, governments are pursuing an economic framework that results in inequality and adopting policies that affect women in disproportionate ways. For example, to raise tax revenues, governments are turning more to consumption taxes such as VAT, while they cut back on top-rate taxes on corporations and wealthy elites. This results in more burdensome conditions for women who already suffer from lower wages, precarious livelihoods and insecure employment.

The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) celebrates women’s exercise of their rights and courageous fights for economic, energy, and climate justice. APMDD puts forward our calls to address the urgent issues that result in and contribute to women experiencing multiple, intersecting forms of oppression and discrimination. We put forward the following challenges to break barriers and pave the way for real changes:

RECOGNIZE, REPRESENT, REDUCE, REDISTRIBUTE CARE WORK. The care work of mothers, sisters, even young girls are acknowledged as essential reproductive work but in practice care work is mostly unpaid and undervalued and, thus, assigns women into subservient roles. Even those in formal labor like care workers, nurses, teachers and others doing reproductive work – mostly women – are paid poorly. Women who are desperate to provide for their families are the most vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation in the informal sector – working for a pittance as piece workers, hawkers, domestic workers, among others. Those in higher paying jobs are still exploited as they are often not paid the same as men even when they do the same work.

MAKE TAXES WORK FOR WOMEN. The economic marginalization of women is made worse by gender biases implicit in many tax policies, with men enjoying better tax deals as they are considered the “breadwinners”.

Tax systems are embedded in and part of the patriarchal system. For many women – especially those living in poverty – regressive and discriminatory tax policies impose unjust burdens and reinforce and perpetuate discrimination. In spite of their economic marginalization, women increasingly shell out a bigger share of their income to indirect taxes such as consumption taxes like value-added taxes (VAT). VAT rates are applied – in most cases, 10 percent in Indonesia, 12% Philippines, 13% Nepal, 12.5% – 15% India, 15% Bangladesh, 16%, Pakistan. VAT exerts a gender bias because of women’s different consumption patterns. Women purchase more goods and services that promote the household’s overall well-being, spending on food, education, health, etc., rather than individual need or desire.

Discriminatory tax policies violate commitments in national laws on gender equality and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty adopted by 189 states. Moreover, tax reform can and should be a potent tool for government, at the very least to put in place various programs that will benefit the poor and publicly finance the global and national commitments to end poverty, reduce inequality (including gender inequality) and tackle climate change.

STOP ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS. Globally, tax avoidance and tax breaks to big businesses cost developing countries hundreds of billions of US dollars every year – that represent foregone revenue that could go a long way in transforming the lives of women and girls around the world. But rampant tax abuses by multinational corporations and the complicity of the states and elites where they operate have impacted negatively on economies, undermined the potential of taxes to address economic injustices, and robbed peoples of financing for public services like education, health, and other social protection measures, especially in times of disasters.

Instead of improving legislation and regulations, governments are conceding more and more tax giveaways, as well as scaling back regulations with the alleged intention of attracting investment. Still prioritizing foreign direct investments, many developing-country governments offer generous tax incentives to big mining firms and other MNCs, despite revenue-eroding terms. This results in a huge drain of financial resources that could potentially fund essential public services. Most adversely affected are the poor who cannot afford private providers, more so grassroots women who count among millions in insecure, precarious livelihoods and low paid employment.

Women in mining-affected communities further lose livelihoods, homes, and food and water sources because of mining’s environmental destruction. It is unacceptable that governments – duty-bound to uphold peoples’ interests and well-being – collect so little from mining corporations that exploit resources while passing on the greater burden of revenue-raising unto the backs of women and the working poor through inequitable taxes such as VAT.

Our actions are part of the Global Days of Action, March 8 – 22, 2019, to demand governments to make taxes work for women. This campaign bannered by the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, launches on International Women’s Day (March 8th).

We join hands with women across the world saying No to injustices: launching community actions, street marches, noise barrages, a Global Women’s Strike.

We are committed to work for economic justice, particularly tax justice, as a vital tool to providing gender-responsive public services that can help reduce or respond to violence against women and girls, provide universal access to public healthcare, ensure more girls get a quality public education, and support women’s economic equality and reduce their unpaid care work.

We demand that our governments fully assume their obligations and increase public spending for quality public services in general, and ensure public funding of services for women, including reproductive health programs.

Join us in this fight and make noise for equality and justice.

Reduce unfair tax burdens on women and adopt progressive and gender just taxation!

Remove gender bias and discrimination in tax policies and laws!

Ensure tax and fiscal policies recognize and serve to represent, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work!

Increase allocation of tax revenues for gender responsive social services!

Stop illicit financial flows and harmful tax practices that facilitate tax avoidance and tax evasion and are biased towards wealthy countries, multinational corporations, and the wealthy!

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