Friday, 14 July 2017

Menstrual Leave, Discrimination or Necessity?

A recent news notification brought to our notice that two of Indian companies have started a culture of menstruation leave for their female employees. Though many foreign countries have already given this gesture to their female staff which allows them a day off when they come across with their menstruation cramp every month. In countries like Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and South Korea, working women have legitimate right for paid leave if and when they are not able to work during their periods. Some countries, like Germany, even wanted to allow paid leave of upto three days for working ladies with regard to social sustainability concerns. However, this brought up a debate on this matter that continues till now.


The debate is about how fair and important are the menstrual leaves. On one hand we all know how hard it may be to manage at workplace for a women on the first day of her periods, we also know a day of paid leave is a loss of business. Some people including women believe that a law allowing women menstrual leave would discourage and refrain employers from hiring them. There are also critics who believe that this gesture of women social security is going to encourage issues of gender discrimination. There are some professions, like the police services or being a sports person, in which it may be hard to give a women her menstrual leave when she has to perform. Though it is also argued that even if women are not allowed a leave when facing such cramp, they would be hardly able to give their 100% to the business.

A research on reproductive health in London explores that period pain can be as “bad as having a heart attack” and I as a women, I have experienced it. I know how all women manage to live with it during their periods. When at the workplace, our period trouble is easily noticed by everyone around. To our female co-workers, it is easy to indicate what is there causing us look uncomfortable. But to the male co-workers and friends, it is not easy to explain this discomfort. Even to the most open minded women, it is a bit of hesitation as mere indications would not be sufficient to tell them what we are going through. And explain it completely is something seriously not to be attempted at least for that moment. Hence, “I am not well today”, “it’s just a bit of weakness”, “there’s stomach pain” or “have some fever today” are the common excuses we make. Aren’t these? But have you ever wondered why we cannot openly say that “I am suffering from period cramp today”, after all menstruation or period cramps are no disease women suffer from. These are as natural as our month end salary. 


Whatever be it, Culture Machine, a media agency that has recently announced menstrual leaves for its female staff has also determined to file a petition to make menstrual leave a legal right of all working women in our country. Women are full of strength, creativity and talent and respecting their biological distinction with men is not promoting discrimination, according to me. Instead, it is encouraging participation of women more open mindedly and more generously. Possibly, not a paid leave but a menstrual leave is something that would allow most of us to escape from giving silly excuses when the reason of our day off can be perfectly explained as “a menstrual leave”.

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