By Guest Author, Ayushi Singh “A Menstruating Woman”
Menstruation has been treated as a taboo by many from the old and the new world. In today’s new world, new kinds of challenges have arisen concerning menstrual health. Menstrual health is a matter of right, and not merely a privilege for any girl!
Recently, Spain has presented a draft for granting sick menstrual paid leaves. As per the proposed draft, the employees can avail medically supervised leaves for up to three days which could be extended up to five days in case of severe cramps, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and bloating. It is all set to become the first European country to do so, making the law to ensure that women deserve to live better.
Menstruation is as humane as any natural phenomenon undertaken by humans. It is a natural process that women go through every month. Menstruation is always kept in a bubble of secrecy, in third world countries it’s still a taboo, and is considered unholy and something just not pious, such that it should be kept under a veil of secrecy. Menstruation is often referred to as “that time of the month”. But what it merely is? A process of shedding of the inner lining of a woman’s uterus, during the normal menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle consists of normally twenty-eight days, it can be twenty-one to thirty-five days. It is just like the phases of the moon, natural and periodical.
Normally, the periods last from anywhere between three to to five days. Periods lasting two days to as many as seven days are also considered normal. Women go through a lot of physiological and psychological changes during their menstruation phase. It is not just a few days of ‘bleeding’ every month. It involves moodiness, emotional roller coasters, troubled sleeping, food cravings, cramps in the lower abdomen, muscle pain, back pain, bloating, vomiting, dizziness, acne and what not. There is no one size fits all. Each woman has to cope with her own set of physical and emotional changes occurring every month. Hence, allowing sick period leaves is the need of the hour.
Period leaves in India seem like a far-fetched idea, where there are no proper menstrual hygiene awareness programs regarding menstrual reproductive health. One in every two girls is denied sanitary napkins and tampons during the menstrual period because they cannot afford them or simply because they are not aware of it. There is no structured legal framework in India that has the provision of period leaves. Some private entities like Zomato, Byjus, and Culture Magazine have taken the initiative of providing period leaves to their employees and there are few more that are joining the dots.
Women activists and employees feel that it is high time for the companies and government to start the initiative and sensitize the public to break the stigma around menstruation and make workspaces inclusive and acceptable for women, for equality, not stigmatization.
Surprisingly, Bihar is the only state in India that has been providing two consecutive leaves each month to its employees since 1992, which is commendable. Many South-Asian countries like Japan, Indonesia, and South Korea have provisions for period leaves.
Menstrual Benefit Bill, 2017 was introduced by MP of Arunachal Pradesh Mr. Ninong Ering, and it was again introduced by him in 2022, in Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly. Mr. Ering has been championing for period leave for the last 5 years, demanding a period leave of 2 consecutive days. To the utmost shock, the Bill faced a serious backlash, and was called an “unholy”, “dirty”, “unclean” topic to be discussed in the Assembly.
Period leaves are often seen as questioning the efficiency of women in the workplace. Will the idea of period leaves cost jobs for women? To avoid such extreme scenarios in future, the government should introduce female-friendly workplace policies and programs to maintain equality as it is also a matter of fundamental rights and state policy.
Reproductive health awareness is the need of the hour. Masses still consider menstruation as a personal issue and avoid public discussion on the same. Moreover, lack of proper washrooms in the majority of work environments in developing countries like India act as a barrier to the career growth of women. The irony of advertisements on menstruation is that the opposite gender at a young age is confused enough, thinking menstruating women bleed blue! Despite being obvious, we still have to reiterate that demonstrating menstrual blood as red is perfectly normal during ads. Awareness will lead to a better understanding in order to stop stigmatization of menstruating women. Period leaves are necessary not just for physical health but also for mental health.
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