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Tharoor’s Tweet On Menstrual Leave For Women Has Started A Critical Debate

Posted: March 12, 2020

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Shashi Tharoor’s tweet about supporting the period leave petition might well have begun a discussion that is essential to have – on women’s menstrual health.

The All India Professionals’ Congress (AIPC) have started a petition on titled Make Laws & Policy Declaring Menstrual Leave For Women. The petition talks about granting menstrual leave of two days to women employed in both the private and the public sector. This leave would be in addition to sick leave and all employed women would get an option either to work from home or a paid leave of two days.

Shashi Tharoor, who is the chairperson of AIPC, tweeted the link of the petition and called it a move to create gender inclusive workspaces in the country.

Apart from Tharoor, Ninong Ering- a Lok Sabha member from Arunachal Pradesh- had also put forward a Private Member’s Bill titled ‘The Menstruation Benefit Bill, 2017’ which granted a two day paid menstrual leave. The bill, however, has not been taken up by the Parliament.

The petition has 2,015 signatures out of a total of 2,500 which it requires. It cites facts from studies which quote how a woman’s efficiency is reduced when she is menstruating. It also takes into account endometriosis – a condition where the pain is worsened to the extent of a woman passing out.

Tharoor’s tweet has gained a lot of traction and it is not the first time he has been vocal about menstrual issues. There have been many who have welcomed this proposal while many have out rightly spoken against it.

A chorus of voices against the move

While many women welcomed the move, there were a lot who spoke against it.

The first person whose reply you’ll see to Shashi Tharoor’s tweet is Deepa Narayan, feminist academician and author of the hard hitting book Chup, that speaks of the silencing of women in Indian culture.

Barkha Dutt is another big name who has taken a stand against the policy of menstrual leaves. She added a link to an article on the same issue which she wrote for The Washington Post. She tweeted about how measures like these “ghettoises women”, and that taking more leaves instantly brands a woman as being unemployable.

Within Tharoor’s own party he has women who are against the petition. Shama Mohamed, a national media panelist, has tweeted how menstruation is not a debility and a woman can perform every activity when on her menstrual cycle.

Sana Khan, a journalist has replied to Tharoor’s tweet by quoting from personal experience, that when she had started taking menstrual leaves, she was “branded as ‘someone who takes off every month’.”

Nidhi Razadan who is the executive editor of NDTV was firm in her opinion against this proposition. “The short answer is NO,” she very succinctly says.

A twitter user Aishwarya Palagummi tweeted that “menstruation is not a health ‘issue’ but unbearable menstrual cramps is a ‘problem’ that needs medical intervention”

What about supporting voices?

But there are quite a few who support the move, too.

Anna MM Vetticad, well known feminist journalist makes a valid point that while many have decried this petition, it is important to consider it, sharing an article by Kavita Krishnan on the subject, which says that the period leave debate is a reminder that workplaces must provide for women’s needs.

A journalist who goes by the name YEMAYA tweeted about how period pain for many women are unbearable, some as and as a heart attack, sharing an article by The Diplomat that addresses this.

Another user Sidrah tweeted that every woman has a different physiology and menstrual leave should be made available.

My opinion

As a feminist woman myself, I feel that while menstrual leaves is a noble concept because surely there are women who face terrible experiences while they are on their periods, it should not be made mandatory. There should be a provision, definitely, for those who genuinely need them, but having leaves because you’re a woman who menstruates does not make sense. Instead, why not have more women friendly policies of flexiwork and work from home options if necessary, and have all employers provide facilities for a woman to rest if she needs to?

Women employees taking leaves every month could also become detrimental for smaller organizations which do not have much employee strength. Woman want to be treated as human beings with different needs, not live a diversity case that gives the company a tick mark.

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A Journalism student. When not busy with college and assignments, I read a lot. Big

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