Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Women empowerment really -- by lowering taxation?

How pathetic can government attempts seem at times that the want to empower 50% of society by offering them some carrots that they most likely wound not want offered in the first place!  If lower taxation for women already was not enough, now WCD minister wants even lower tax rates for them!

NEW DELHI: Recognising that financial independence is the only way to effective gender empowerment, the government has started thinking beyond the age-old fiscal incentive of a higher threshold for taxable income for women. It is now considering demands from women' rights groups for a differential tax rate for women.

This boldness in gender budgeting was enunciated to TOI by women and child development minister Krishna Tirath. She said the ministry could endorse the women rights' groups demand for a lower tax rate for women. ``It is a serious factor in empowering working women. After all, it is a woman's income that directly impacts the living standard and health of her family and children's nutritional levels,'' she said.

And families and children in those households where women have no income are going into starvation, right?

``We have received demands from women's groups pitching for lower tax slabs for women. We are looking into it,'' the minister said. At present, there are certain tax incentives for women, but women's groups say it is insufficient. Currently women don't have to pay taxes on earnings up to Rs 1.95 lakh while for men, taxation starts at Rs 1.6 lakh. This is seen as a short-sighted approach in the larger feminist discourse. Instead, lower tax rates for women is seen as an empowering tool.

Feminist discourse…. i love that phrase!  I mean if there was any rhyme or reason in feminist discourse except spread hatred towards men and make incessant demands to State for favours for women.

The change may not come through in next week's budget (which is more or less ready) but the radical idea has the women and child development (WCD) ministry excited. A formal endorsement from the ministry may not immediately result in the concept getting enshrined as a principle of governance. But it would be a boost for women's rights activists who are eagerly awaiting the call of minister Tirath.

Ranjana Kumari, Centre for Social Research director, said the step was very important in making women more economically empowered and self-reliant. ``The government needs to do much more in ensuring lower tax slabs for women, especially single women,'' she said. Activists have argued that women's income is used for building human capital, in the form of children's education, improving a family's nutritional status and health care.

This is another line to hoodwink people in the same feminist discourse!  According to them, when it was not fashionable (or convenient) for women to work, there was no human capital being formed, no children being educated, families nutirition was in a disaster!

``It, therefore, works as a productive asset for the family whether in investment or expenditure unlike men's salary. Single women too must have more disposable income at hand as they have no economic security,'' Kumari added.

And what about single men?  They are expected to pay full rates of taxes and subsidize security for single women.  Sure it will do a lot to their self-esteem and support the double rate of suicides of Indian men compared to women.

Women rights activists feel that while some success has been achieved through legislative action, special schemes, access to micro finance, education for the girl child and healthcare access, women continue to be discriminated against when matters of money are involved.

Economists agree that, in general, preferential rates of taxation for women, whether it is stamp duty or income tax deduction or other levies, will increasingly bring women into the mainstream of life and businesses, with more and more earnings shifting from men to women, especially true of rural women and those from the trading and business classes who have this option to transfer income from one member to the other.

Education Resource Unit director Vimala Ramachandran, who has worked extensively in the field of gender empowerment, said lower income tax slabs could be ``encouraging'' for women. ``Such a step will encourage more women to work. Initiatives like lower stamp duty for women owned property has directly impacted and the number of property registered under women's name has increased,'' she said.

A very bad social engineering trick to ensure property rights for women… how many women will get property rights even if stamp duty for them was made zero! 

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