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Menstrual Leave: Discrimination, Necessity Or A Simpler Way To Explain Period Cramps?

Posted: July 16, 2017

The recent debate on menstrual leave has brought many different viewpoints to the fore. Here is an excellent summary.

Despite the eloquence of equality between men and women, there exists the undeniable fact of biological differences between the two. Though these differences have been counted as the weakness of women for quite some time, women have broken all the stereotypes to prove their strength in all spheres of life.

We can say, women have become stronger with time. But this has not changed the fact of period cramps and trouble suffered silently by all women during their menstruation period.

Menstruation is an integral biological process that happens with all the women for almost all their lives. There was a time when the menstruation of women was something secret and a taboo to be discussed in public. Thanks to education, westernization and television commercials that promote sanitary pads, we all know and talk about them openly. Now, when menstruation is not a secret, the cramps and dullness it brings should also be accepted as an equally blameless fact.

A research on reproductive health in London explores that period pain can be as “bad as having a heart attack” and being a woman, 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 making us look uncomfortable. But to the male co-workers and friends, it is not easy to explain this discomfort.

Even for the most open minded women, there is a bit of hesitation as mere indications would not be sufficient to tell them what we are going through. And to 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.

A recent news notification brought to our notice that two Indian companies have started a policy of menstruation leave for their female employees. Many foreign countries have already given this gesture to their female staff which allows them a day off when they have menstruation cramps. In countries like Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and South Korea, working women have a 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 the one hand we all know how hard it may be for a woman to manage at the workplace 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 for women’s 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 cramps, they would be hardly able to give their 100% to the business.

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, even if not a paid leave, 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”.

Top image via Pexels

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3 Comments


  1. MANJARI PANDEY
    MANJARI PANDEY -

    I rightly agree with you that possibly following an ideal life style can prevent period cramps. But i hope you agree with me it is hardly possible, for instance, we often have to skip/ delay lunch when at work, don’t we? This is certainly normal to have no pain in periods and i have also experienced such easy going mens.many a times. But occasionally, there were embarrassing conditions before me in office. I would compare this with a case of having a normal delivery or c-sec after you get pregnant; people say a particular lifestyle can prevent c-sec but I know even dieticians and yoga instructors who have been taken to c-sec.
    This view was really not thought by me while putting views in this writing. Thank you for sharing this with me!

  2. Sonia Robert Chaavara -

    I have posted this comment earlier on womens web for another post on menstruation leave. Im posting this again here as these are my views on it. I to agree Manjary with a lot of the points you make in this post.
    In earlier times a woman was given a respite from her physically taxing household/agricultural chores on days of her period but this slowly led to a practice of exclusion from social life altogether, during those days leading to discrimination. This is when we started hiding the period to the point of denial almost, so that we could avoid exclusion. So we began to normalise and trivialise the period to not draw any attention to it so that we could still participate in a normal life. What women don’t realise is that both extremes are not the way forward. We certainly do not want exclusion and discrimination but that doesn’t mean we have to pretend it is all a piece of cake and not at all any discomfort too just so that we can remain included in things or not seem weak. We need to breakdown the many layers of customs and traditions to understand which ones and to what point they are functional and which ones and to what extent they have can become dysfunctional or discriminatory. Just because women have joined the workforce does not mean they have to be men or act like men. They are still female. The workforce has to absorb them as such, as they are worthy and significant contributors. Contribution is no longer only to be counted in terms of time clocked at a factory or office but rather the kind of function being fulfilled, wherever and whenever and includes also motherhood which is unfortunately not paid. (but in time might become a paid job if more women refuse to marry or take time off to have babies and nurture them) Like we have maternity leave, period leave may be as important and when women make up the majority of the workforce and are decision makers in powerful positions, it will not be a big issue to ponder over.

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