Carolina Rodrigues Finette ■ Tax injustices are eroding women’s rights in Brazil, and we need to talk about it


This week, The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is holding its 88th session in Geneva. This time, Brazil, Estonia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Montenegro, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda and Singapore will be reviewed.  

The CEDAW committee was formed in 1982, comprising 23 global experts in women’s issues. Its main role is to oversee progress for women in countries that are parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW monitors national measures to fulfil this commitment by reviewing reports state parties submit every four years. During the different sessions, the Committee engages in dialogue with government representatives and civil society organisations to provide feedback and seek additional information. It also issues recommendations on women’s rights-related issues, to which states parties should pay far more attention. 

As part of its review process, the committee has previously requested Brazil to address “any disproportionately negative impact of austerity measures and tax policies on women” but the Brazilian government has failed to do so both in the State Party Report and its annex. Answering this silence, Tax Justice Network, INESC, Latindadd and Red de Justicia Fiscal para America Latina y el Caribe have worked together to shine a spotlight on the tax injustices directly affecting women’s rights in Brazil, particularly black women in low income backgrounds. Our joint submission elucidates why the Brazilian government needs to urgently address the issues of inequality and discrimination. 

The group submitted a Shadow Report, with inputs from several feminist organisations in Brazil. We present a number of salient issues which provide indicators of gender inequality and human rights failures, for example, how women are likelier to work in the public sector and rely on crucial public services, but when public spending is cut, jobs disappear, salaries get capped, and essential services like childcare and healthcare vanish. This leaves women jobless or underemployed and burdened with even more unpaid care work. And on top of that, traditional gender roles at home and domestic violence make things worse. With little economic power or social support, these policies often keep women from accessing even their most basic rights. 

Among the recommendations of the shadow report is the need to acknowledge the unequal impact of austerity measures on women, especially black women. We call for tax policies in Brazil to take into account gender and race issues, regulations that include subsidies for health and personal care products, and the implementation of tax refunds for the poorest. Our report also suggests implementing measures to reduce the prevalence of tax incentives for multinational companies that generate socio-environmental damage, in order to repay the affected populations, mainly black and indigenous women.  

Brazil’s active participation in the Latin America’s Regional Platform for Tax Cooperation, and in the negotiations towards a United Nations Framework Convention on International Tax Cooperation is vital to strengthen intergovernmental cooperation and mobilise countries to combat inequalities in income and wealth taxes both between countries and within Brazil, to redress historical violence against women and black women. 

In this week’s session, representatives from both Tax Justice Network and INESC will attend in-person to present the report and deliver its key recommendations to the CEDAW committee and government officials. We will use this opportunity to also discuss with, and learn from, feminist civil society organisations about how tax justice plays a crucial role in women’s lives. We expect the Committee to use the information we presented to question the Brazilian government about their actions on austerity and tax, and demand the country implement tax justice measures and guarantee women’s rights.  

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