It is high time for a law to be passed internationally for women’s menstrual leave. But unfortunately taking leave from work during menstruation is still an unusual institutionalized practice, enabling an examination of the clash of social definitions of menstrual function.
Women are allowed to take menstrual leave in some countries and companies, where as there are many institutions and companies that are still not aware about this. The Health Care For Women International examined the US. public’s (N=600) opinions of a potential menstrual leave policy. The participants were asked open-ended questions about probable effects of menstrual leave. Five themes emerged using thematic analysis.
(a) Supporting women and women in the workplace. (b) What do men get? (c) Concerns about the effects on the workplace. (d) Just deal with it [menstruation]. (e) This policy would make women look bad. These findings are important for policy makers to consider.
The concept of menstrual leave should be normalized all across the nation in every country for women’s healthcare by breaking the silence about female bodily functions, rather than being ignorant about it.
Like billions of other young girls and grown women, many of us never got the chance to encounter anything in society to teach us to treat our periods with anything but shame. This is an extremely powerful message of stigma – powerful to the extent that we often found ourselves stuffing the pads in our schools bags, being scared and worried about things like, what if those boys sitting on the back benches in my class get to see it? What if my the pad mistakenly falls on the ground in recess in front of everybody while i’m taking out my lunch box? What if I get to see my classmate whisper things about me and make fun about that big red stain on my uniform?
We’ve all been through it. It wasn’t easy. But now as we’ve grown and realized about periods being a natural bodily process for women, menstruation leave should be considered as important as a sick leave.
In India, the language used by Zomato (food delivery service) CEO Deepinder Goyal in his statement introducing the policy is inclusive, his “word of necessary advice” for women employees are indeed quite unique:
“These leaves should only be availed if you are really unable to attend to work… Do not abuse these leaves or use them as a crutch to take time out for other pending tasks. Take care of yourself – regular focus on fitness and diet has a positive impact on every bit of your physical and mental health.”
The italicisation of “really” shows that the gateway for availing period leave aren’t met, when women are not able to attend work. They should prove to Human Resources that they are “really” unable to attend work – what “really” means in this context indicates his problematic understanding for menstruation and focuses how men, who have no uterus and have never had periods or period cramps, should refrain from pouring in their advice on how women can take better care of their bodies. It is high time to take the decision to grant menstrual leave out of the hands of men like Goyal. It is about time to take this seriously and consider introducing a law that makes it compulsory for employers to grant women menstrual leave.
A paper called “The Girl Who Cried In Pain” found genuine evidence by healthcare workers that women’s pain is treated as less important than men’s.
There will always be a certain area of the male population which will oppose any law intended to favor women in any way, whether it is menstrual equity, property rights or dowry. The commandment of menstrual leave might as well lead to sexist remarks by men as to whether women are “faking it”. Men will be men, right? Great, let them be – that’s no reason to go against the fact that women the right to menstrual leave.
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