Menstrual leave will exclude women even more from workplaces

There are many women in the country, like in the rest of the world, who face severe cramps and pain on the first day of their periods. In fact, some countries have adopted menstrual leave as a policy.

Written by Priyanka Chaturvedi | New Delhi | Updated: July 17, 2017 9:03 pm
period leaves, menstrual leaves, paid menstrual leaves, period off day, periods leave, women leave periods, menstrual pains, work during menstrual pain, latest news, indian express, india news The fight for women’s participation in workforce is not to create exclusive policies, but of more inclusive policies for them fit in. (Representational image)

An intense debate is raging on my timeline ever since an Indian media company offered ‘paid menstrual leave’ — a day off during periods — to its women employees. The company has also launched an online petition calling on the Ministry of Woman and Child Development and the Ministry of Human Resources Development to make menstrual leave a mandatory policy for all workplaces.

There are many women in the country, like in the rest of the world, who face severe cramps and pain on the first day of their periods. In fact, some countries have adopted menstrual leave as a policy. The situation is more challenging for working women in India as, more often than not, they are unable to freely discuss menstruation, or the pain they go through every month with their male colleagues and managers because of the taboo surrounding the normal biological process.

While the initiative is laudable and well-intentioned, menstrual pain and cramps are not the biggest challenge that Indian women in workforce face. The fight for women’s participation in workforce is not to create exclusive policies, but of more inclusive policies for them fit in. The demand should be for equal access and opportunities, and not for concessions that come because of the biological differences between a man and a woman. Also, not to forget when we argue for equal opportunities, we ask so despite knowing the fact that we are different from men.

There are two arguments to be made here: First, how to make a more participative nation for women in workforce, and second, how to get rid of the taboo around talking about women’s periods. These arguments are important and should be a priority in order to create a more empowered environment in the country — as an economy as well as a society. In her book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg writes that workspaces can be made more inclusive for women by being sensitive to their needs, such as having designated parking for pregnant women, or ensuring hygienic toilets for them. Such small steps that can go a long way in inclusiveness.

In our country, women’s participation in labour force is either stagnating or dropping — the National Sample Survey (NSS) data shows labour force participation rates of women aged 25-54 in India have stagnated at about 26-28 per cent in urban areas, and fallen substantially from 57 per cent to 44 per cent in rural areas. At the same time, in terms of economic participation and opportunity of women, India ranks at 136 of 144 countries in the latest WEF Global Gender Gap report, coming in at 135th for labour force participation and 137 for estimated earned income. The focus, therefore, should be on making women an integral part of India’s economic goals.

Regarding the second argument around women’s basic health and hygiene, the latest census data shows that at least 636 million Indians lack toilets, a crisis that contributes to loss of economic output and violence against women. The shame associated with women’s periods has a huge impact not only their health but also education, shows a report in India Spend. It states: “Only in seven of India’s 36 states/union territories did 90% or more women in the 15-24 age group use hygienic protection during menstruation, according to the latest national health data.”

The demand for our rights is a just and a must cause, however, let’s choose inclusion rather than exclusion as a principle for policy making.

Priyanka Chaturvedi is the Congress spokesperson.

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  1. P
    Prachi
    Jul 21, 2017 at 11:20 am
    strugglijg bcoz of Indian men like you who think their only work is to help conceive a baby and off. Rest its all a duty of a woman so why work when their enough work at home, right? Jerks, the fact that you all are working and fulfilling your goal so well is bcoz there are women at home who are doing chores you think are s h i t and doing even your share that you ahould have been doing. The women doesn't even let even another woman employee know shes having her periods. Thats the strenght of many woman but that doesn't mean her health should suffer every single time either to keep her husband happy, children fit and family content. If your helath is her responsblity whos responsbloty ia to be concerned about her health? At least the govt is concerned to give them just one leave so that she can rest and get back to the grind next day. Its not necessary everyone takes it. I have worked during my periods at field for even 10 hours without any compls but some need dat leave.
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    1. P
      Prachi
      Jul 21, 2017 at 11:14 am
      4) They have a problem with every woman who has something between her ears. Any career oreinted, no nonsense, intelligent, independent woman is a threat to them, their ego, their masculanity. They are happy with only those who do "haan ji" and sleep with them whenever they want. Any decision making woman even if shes working in armed forces or police forces is a problem with them. One of the commentors here mentioned abt women in armed, police and bureacracy- brother, even they get menstrual pains. They tolerate it like all women have been doing since centuries. Women are better contributors at workplace than men- accept your handicap men. And hence the workplace even thinks of creating an environment suitable for their welfare. The GOI's initiative of creches has also been introduced keeping in mind the patriarchal mentality of Indian men. The policy makers know that 80 women in West work bcoz they have personal, emotional, legal support whereas Indian women still struggling.
      Reply
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        Prachi
        Jul 21, 2017 at 11:07 am
        The West introduced it first and they have no regrets, complaints, issues. Why are Indian men cribbing? Oh! They are always cribbing. Reasons:- 1) They are Indian men 2) Their ego hurts much faster than those from west 3) These jerks are given special rights ever since childhood and these dumb s have an issue with this "special right". Special rights of Indian men- Kanha since birth, mother feeding them with her own hands till he turns 20 or even more, Raja beta gets everything first hand from clothes to shoes to toys to books, mumma does all his work even bathes him probably, washes his chaddis, cooks fav food, gets him married to a girl who can "serve" him all her life from his raja beta food to bed to his chaddis, neither ma nor biwi should talk back, follow all orders, their lives revolve around Raja Beta. Papa ka pride- papa showers money, investments, land and more on him. Look whos talking about spcl rights?
        Reply
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          Rajneesh
          Jul 22, 2017 at 12:48 pm
          I Appreciate your comments. Actually, the male chauvnism stems from the insecurity that the society has burdened the parents since ages. I personally dont understand why the parents are insecure and eventually impart privileges to the male counterpart. One who is considerate about parents will take care in their old ages no matter male or female.
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        2. R
          Ravi Ravishankar
          Jul 18, 2017 at 5:43 am
          Giving equal opportunity does not mean having a single policy that fits only men. A civilised society must recognise the difference between men and woman and provide an equal opportunity environment despite the difference. First step - the taboo should be broken in the workplace and maintain dignity in our dialogue related to this topic.
          Reply
          1. S
            Shyamal Ganguly
            Jul 18, 2017 at 1:24 am
            All employers must update employment handbook. If SC makes it mandatory, avoid employing women. Let the judges create employment.
            Reply
            1. A
              Aadarsh
              Jul 21, 2017 at 10:59 am
              What nonsense are you talking you jerk. I wish your mother never had periods. At least she wouldn't have produced a jerk like you.
              Reply
            2. S
              Shyamal Ganguly
              Jul 18, 2017 at 1:18 am
              Never heard this before. Treat them differently and then claim equality. What about the services, IAS, IPS, Army, Navy, Air force? Discriminate? Is this a BJP ployor CONGI?
              Reply
              1. J
                John Abram
                Jul 17, 2017 at 11:57 pm
                Period leave, pregnancy leave, bad hair day leave, acne leave, make up day leave, shopping day leave, talking day leave. Aren't these physical and social limitations why in the first place women were either could not work or limited to certain jobs only? Well, men work all days of the month and year. So much for gender equality. May be, like older days, women should keep themselves busy with managing household.
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                1. A
                  Aujla Aujla
                  Jul 17, 2017 at 10:30 pm
                  Before you start talking about women's right.Just answer as how any women can vote for a man to be the P M of the country who married and left his wife.For years did not even acknowledge that he is a married man and his wife is still alive till election commission in 2014 forced him to fill in the blanks,that we know that Mr. Modi is a married man.That is the general mentality even in our ladies.That itself is worry some.That is the shame of the Nation.I think our women must answer this before they vote for him again.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    Atheist
                    Jul 17, 2017 at 11:14 pm
                    Youre a shameful person...trying to mix womens right with your pathetic politics.
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Atheist
                      Jul 17, 2017 at 11:15 pm
                      Youre a path. etic person.....trying to mix youre bad and miserable ideology with womens rights.
                      Reply
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                        Shyamal Ganguly
                        Jul 18, 2017 at 1:21 am
                        Told you Buddha did this. Ramakrishna never cohabited with his married wife. You are just a low life, possibly a follower of Mohammad the pedophile.
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                          Aujala Aujala
                          Jul 18, 2017 at 1:51 am
                          If all men were to go by this principle including whoever fathered you, you would not have been born.
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