Tax policies should deliver justice for women


Governments should implement progressive tax policies that deliver on their human rights obligations to citizens, especially to women and girls. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Picture this: you are a small-scale retail trader selling your merchandise in a market where garbage has remained uncollected for as long as you can remember.

The market taps have been dry for days on end and the toilets are filthy.
But you still pay daily fees to the municipal council or county government in the hope that they will provide these critical services to you.

On the other hand, you pay the regressive value added tax (VAT) on many of the goods and services that you purchase.

At home, as the woman of the house you carry out household chores, help your ill mother-in-law and look after the whole family, all as unpaid care work.

Tax avoidance

Meanwhile, a large corporation in your neighbourhood employs accountants and lawyers to help it avoid paying its fair share of taxes in the country.

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The company also receives other State subsidies, along with access to an educated workforce, good infrastructure and justice and security services.

This scenario replicates itself daily in the lives of many women across the world, especially in the global south.

This, despite commitments by world leaders to increase gender equality and women’s economic empowerment by 2030.

It is in this context that the first ever global convening on tax justice for women’s rights was held earlier this year in Bogota, Colombia.


The meeting drew together a global community of women as a united voice to advance tax justice as the most effective solution to gendered economic inequality.

A diverse international movement is building to address the denial of women’s human rights as regressive tax systems continue to increase.

These continue to impoverish and marginalise women in the global economy.

Democratic states rely on tax revenues as the main source of funding to meet the needs and rights of citizens.

Yet, regressive consumption taxes such as the value added tax – which hurt poor people -- are increasingly being used to fill in for tax cuts that benefit wealthy persons and corporations.

Without sufficient tax revenues, governments are unable to fund universal public education, health, water and other services.

Women rights

If this is met, then it protects the fundamental economic and social rights of women.

On December 7 this year, the Bogota Declaration on Tax Justice for Women’s Rights was launched. Organisations around the world are already signing it.

This declaration calls on governments to implement progressive tax policies to deliver on their human rights obligations to citizens, especially to women and girls.

This includes creating gender-responsive fiscal systems, ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their share of taxes, and that all countries have a seat at the table to decide international tax policies through a UN global tax commission.

READ: EDITORIAL: Tweak policies to feed job creation in private sector

The author is the Campaigns and Policy Coordinator, Africa Global Alliance for Tax Justice (GATJ)