Kerala— Just as the topic of menstruation has remained a taboo in several third-world nations, the matter of menstrual leave is often associated with women’s work efficiency and workplace sexism. In a country like India, where devotees honor a menstruating Goddess carved in stone, should women walking in flesh & blood be ashamed of claiming period leaves?
Women right advocates are vocal and strongly putting arguments in favour of the Kerala government's very recent decision granting menstrual leaves for female students of all institutions falling under the state higher education department.
The move has sparked off a debate on menstruation and the taboos associated with it, across the country. While some take it as a welcome step towards establishment of a gender-just society and demand it's adoption at workplaces everywhere, others believe it would hamper the progress of the fairer sex and highlight their weaker side.
Taking leave may require telling managers who are males about something the woman to believe to be a personal issue. It may portray women as less able than men and could therefore lead to further discrimination against women.
“Taking into account the mental and physical difficulties experienced by female students during menstruation, necessary steps will be taken to implement menstrual leave in all universities"
Kerala Higher Education Minister R Bindu wrote on her Facebook wall.
Speaking to The Mooknayak, Dr. Rajeshwari Narendran, Director NTPC School of Business, Noida says "We are all heading towards a gender neutral workplaces, society, nation and globe. While Asian countries struggle to give fair share of empowerment to women, the workplaces are going open and accepting gender sensible culture and practice due diligence in Diversity, Equality and inclusion in paper and spirit".
Rajeshwari finds this a welcome move to see the menstrual leave just like maternity leaves. "From HR perspective the organization's which are gender neutral have started giving a bucket of holidays where the employee himself or herself picks the days or dates for leaves and there is no one package as such for entire organization to go for holiday barring national holidays. This is the flexibility offering from new age organisations", the director asserts.
However, the question arises will it be yet another moment of embarrassment for any woman to claim it?
The women in many cities and places in India still feel taboo to talk about menstruation even in family. Many believe that it won't be that easy for them to easily express this to organization. Are all HR managers compatible to adopting such policy?
Dr. Vibha Bhoot, an assistant professor in the English Dept at Jai Narayan Vyas University, Jodhpur disagrees with the move. "I don’t think women need period leaves. Women are strong enough and they have proven this by working together with men in all the spheres of life. Instead leave like CCL is a better relief. Two days a month would be 4 weeks in an year. Already there are MNCs who don’t prefer to hire women bcoz of the large number of days they would be away from work in case of maternity leaves etc. Menstrual leave would further encourage them to hire lesser women and this is harmful for women fraternity" Vibha shared her fears with The Mooknayak.
Menstrual cycle symptoms can include pelvic and lower back pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue and mood swings caused by fluctuation in hormonal levels. A senior gynaecologist at Jodhpur, Dr. Snehlata Sharma told The Mooknayak "Period-related pain, also referred to as dysmenorrhea, is common worldwide. It often affects school and workplace performance and can grow worse with age. Painful periods interfere with to quite an extent in women’s daily activities, so there is no wrong or shame to claim a holiday if you are in pain because it is an every month natural process.
Menstrual activist and crusader of the 'Red Pad Movement' in Udaipur, Khushi Paliwal, says "The pronounced leave promotes EQUITY in society, the very basis of equality in the Indian Constitution. Period Leave can be understood as simply as the positive discrimination built for specially-abled categories. In India, well-known companies like Swiggy, Zomato, and Byjus are promoting this necessarily paid time-off for females during menstruating days & reflecting a gender-inclusive work environment. It is a time given to a woman to recover physically & mentally & to jump back to work but delaying the Menstruation Benefit Bill in Parliament in the name of women's work efficiency always sounds questionable to me".
Bihar govt sanctioned period leaves for women employees upto the age of 45 in 1992.
In Nepal, girls are banished to 'period huts' during their cycle because they are considered polluted and even toxic.
In the 1920s, Japanese labor unions started to demand leave (seiri kyuka) for their female workers. In 1947, a law was brought into force by the Japanese Labor Standards that allowed menstruating women to take days off work.
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