Protesting Period Poverty in ThailandThailand’s taxation of menstrual products has contributed to period poverty in Thailand. Pads and tampons have a 7% value-added tax. If a Thai woman earning minimum wage uses five pads a day, she spends more than 12% of her daily salary on menstrual care. Many working-class women experience period poverty in Thailand, which means their income is too low for menstrual care.

Gender Equality in Thailand

Thailand is one of the most gender-equitable countries in Asia, yet women are not represented in the government, police force or military and are excluded from certain schools in each sector. The leader of the 2014 coup, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, runs the national committee of gender equality but has sparked protests for his “male supremacy” actions.

Since July 2020, pro-democracy rallies have erupted in Thailand, millions demanding a voice in the government after the military seized power in the 2014 coup and rewrote the constitution to control the 2019 elections. In Thailand, people caught criticizing the king are sent to jail, so the protestors are risking their freedom.

Women are the main organizers, speakers and participants, and they use the platform to expose gender inequality. Some issues they protest include reproductive rights, the price of menstrual products, sexist school dress codes, the wage gap and rape culture. The pro-democracy rallies turned into Thailand’s first gender-political movement, one feminist pointing out to The New York Times.

At a protest in August 2020, activist Kornkanok Kamta said, “We cannot claim to be a true democracy when decisions about our bodies and reproductive health are still controlled by the government.”

Sunny Cotton

Kesinee Jirawanidchakorn operates a brand called Sunny Cotton that produces and sells reusable pads. When she sold her products in Chiang Mai, a city in Thailand, older women approached the booth excited to see that the cloth pad was coming back in style. In hopes of breaking the stigma around menstruation, Jirawanidchakorn’s company encourages women in Thailand to talk about their periods.

The Sunny Cotton cloth pads are slightly more expensive than disposable ones, but they are much cheaper in the long run. Customers will never again feel the anger and oppression of paying taxes on a basic necessity, and the products are luxurious and sustainable, making the one-time tax seem reasonable. Sunny Cotton also boosts Thailand’s economy by creating jobs as Chiang Mai villagers make the products. In the future, Jirawanidchakorn plans to donate the products and share her period knowledge with girls, underprivileged women and women in prison.

Looking Ahead

Eventually, Sunny Cotton hopes to uplift Thai women out of period poverty by giving them free access to pads and the confidence to talk about their periods. Period poverty in Thailand is just one aspect of the patriarchy that protestors hope to dismantle. While organizations like Sunny Cotton are working to alleviate period poverty in Thailand, more action needs to be done to lift women out of poverty and establish gender equality.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare and Taxation in developing countries
One of the reasons health care in developing nations is ineffective is that governments heavily tax medicines and other health care related products. While the combination of health care and taxation in developing countries is a good revenue generator for the government, it imposes a heavy burden on those who cannot afford to carry it. Those with low incomes and who mostly need these medicines find themselves castigated by high prices that result from government tariffs and taxes.

Developing nations tend to import many, if not all, of the medicines prescribed. In addition, patients usually are the ones paying the full amount for medical services due to the unavailability of health care in their countries. For instance, the average Indian pays for about 70 percent of health care services. After taxes and tariffs, the price of medicines can go up two-thirds, making even generic drugs unaffordable to the lower class.

This story repeats itself in other emerging markets. Countries like Argentina, Russia and Brazil impose tariffs of 10 percent on medicines. Other developing nations like Algeria and Rwanda impose tariffs of 15 percent, and in places like the Republic of Djibouti tariffs can even go up to 26 percent.

In the case of medicine, tariffs are only one part of the problem. Many countries also impose heavy taxes on top of tariffs. For instance, Brazil imposes a 28 percent tax on prescribed medicines, while India levies a variety of taxes that increase the value of medicine by about 8 percent on top of the states’ taxes, which can range from five to 16 percent.

Besides the fact that they place the heaviest economic burden on the poorest sectors of the population — which also tend to have the highest levels of health problems — these tariffs and taxes are economically counterproductive. According to Rod Hunter, senior vice president at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, higher prices on medicines limit people’s use of them. Illnesses go on unabated, in time leading to less productivity and a lower national GDP.

The effects of reducing or eliminating tariffs and taxes on medicines have been dramatic in places like Kenya, Colombia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Tanzania and Uganda. For instance, after the Kenyan government removed tariffs and taxes on anti-malaria medicine, infant mortality and disease rates between 2005 and 2009 declined by almost 44 percent.

The initiative shown by these countries has resonated across the globe. Many African nations in 2011 pledged to lower tariffs and taxes on medicines. However, so far only a handful of nations have followed through.

It is in the best interest of countries like India and China to lower tariffs, especially considering India is the biggest exporter of finished medicines and the China produces 70-80 percent of the active ingredients contained in medicines.

The upcoming 2015 BRICS summit could be a good place to raise this issue again. These large stakeholders and developed nations alike could make it part of the agenda to change the practice of “taxing the sick.” Perhaps they could even form a coalition to press governments worldwide to change these practices and broaden access to health care in many developing nations.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: Project Syndicate, Voice of America
Photo: Huffington Post

Research released by Oxfam declared that global poverty could be solved entirely if taxes were applied to the offshore assets across the globe. At a rate of 3.5% taxation on the USD trillions of assets and capital held in hidden havens could generate USD 156 billion in extra tax revenue.

According to Oxfam, this taxation could end global poverty with room to spare. Oxfam research indicates that USD 66 billion per year is the cost of funding poverty reduction. If the taxation were to take place, it would ensure that every person in the world could be given a minimum income of USD 1.25 per day. This minimum income is the estimated amount of money needed to lift one person out of poverty.

Currently there are USD 18.5 billion in assets and capital in offshore jurisdictions with approximately USD 12 billion being held in European tax havens such as Luxembourg, Andorra, and Malta.

– Kira Maixner

Source: Taxation Info News
Photo: Jezebel