How the New Tax Law Directly Affects Women

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Existing Philippine laws aren’t always fair to women.

Not so long ago, women had to protest against the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) halting the distribution of contraceptive medication and devices. The Alliance for Family and Foundation (ALF) opposed a total of 77 contraceptives, declaring them as abortifacients.

Although there is a tendency to link contraception to abortion, what lawmakers fail to see is the bigger picture. Contraceptive pills are one of the most effective and most accessible family planning drug on the market. Women who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) rely heavily on contraceptive pills to stabilize their monthly cycles.

Contraception also helps women fight hormonal imbalances that heavily affect their daily lives. Women across the country expressed their anger over how the justice system belittled not only their choices, but also their health.

On November 15, 2017, the Supreme Court finally realized the gravity of the ruling and decided to lift the TRO. Senator Vicente Sotto III himself said that an individual could do “whatever they want to do with their own lives.” It was a great day for women.

Previous Proposals

There is, however, another hindrance to our rights as members of the female population.

Earlier this year, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Sherwin Gatchalian expressed their opposition towards a proposal to tax cosmetic products because of its discriminatory implications on women. As if our makeup isn’t already expensive enough as it is, the Senate saw it as an alternative to taxing other things, like fuel (which is bad for the environment, by the way). If approved, the tax will have a negative impact on women in the workforce whose use of cosmetics is a necessity, says Gatchalian.

The vanity tax was, fortunately, not included in the Tax Reform, but something else was chosen as another government monetizable source: cosmetic surgery.

Beauty Comes with a Price

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The Senate has recently filed the Tax Reform bill set for 2018 and amongst the new laws is the excision of additional 20% of taxes on cosmetic procedures. Under Section 30 of the Amendment, all cosmetic treatments and body enhancement surgeries that are “undertaken for aesthetic reasons” are subject to the tax adjustment. Popular procedures such as facelifts, breast augmentation, and liposuction fall under this category.

What this Means for Women (and, Maybe, Even Men)

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Filipinos, sadly, still carry this culture of robbing women of their choices and rights to safe health practices that involve their bodies. The new tax law doesn’t help the situation. Imposing a high tax on legitimate cosmetic surgery may push some to seek the black market.

We are constantly fighting the existing stigma around cosmetic surgery and telling people that you don’t have to approve of it – you just have to give women a choice to do it or not. Putting a tax on what some women rely on to make themselves feel confident is just like telling women: “You have no right to feel beautiful.” Or maybe: “You have the right to feel beautiful, but let me control the way you achieve it.”

We have to stop thinking we have dominion over a woman’s body, or any other body, for that matter. Our beliefs as individuals don’t have to reflect or affect the beliefs of others. The Senate should be more concerned about the safety of these individuals rather than their discomfort about their personal choices. It’s when we value the individual and his or her rights that we begin to progress.

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