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Kiruba Munusamy’s Account Of Being Fired For Taking Period Leave Reveals The Bias Against Women

Posted: August 19, 2020

Supreme court’s lawyer Kiruba Munuswamy was fired for taking a leave due to menstrual cramps. Still wondering about the gender bias at work?

Kiruba Munusamy recently tweeted about how she was fired from a senior Supreme Court advocate’s office for taking a leave on the first day of her period. She also spoke of the discrimination she faced as a Dalit woman.

Recently, food delivery giant Zomato India announced ten days of paid menstrual leaves a year to cis and transwomen. This decision had people divide into two camps – one against the decision and the others who supported it and called it a progressive step.

The ones against it, stated that period leaves will further increase the bias against women in workplaces. On the other hand, the people who supported it believe that it is high time these leaves were granted. They also said that women need not prove their efficiency by fighting with their biology. 

Kiruba Munusamy’s tweet only goes on to amplify the issues women have been facing for years now.

Menstruation and gender bias

In the Twitter thread, she said, “Back then, I used to suffer from really severe migraine and menstrual cramps. One day, I took a leave owing to migraine. The following day, I had menstrual cramps and told my superior that I was unwell. In the evening, he called me and fired me.” 

The advocate, reportedly, told her that this is the very reason why he doesn’t hire women. According to him, women take a week off for periods,  a month for marriage and then a year for maternity leave. Hence, men are more competent at workplaces than women. 

The advocate further told her to ask her mom to find Munusamy a groom since she wasn’t ‘competent enough’ to work.

Are women nothing beyond their periods?

This tweet makes you wonder if women are nothing beyond their periods! Even though periods are a natural occurrence for almost half the population of the world, it is still considered a taboo around the globe. And it is due to this that their capabilities and efficiency is judged on the basis of their period. Don’t you think that’s highly inappropriate? 

This goes to the point that even before they are hired women are asked about the number of leaves they would be taking through the year. The stigma around periods also results in hiring bias, lower pay, slower promotions and lower participation in board meetings. By asking women to tolerate the pain to be as compatible as men is just one more way of nourishing patriarchy. 

Why do we need menstrual leave?

Periods are a natural phenomenon, and a lot of women experience extreme pain during their periods. John Guillebaud, professor of reproductive health at University College London, says cramping can be as “bad as having a heart attack.” So why is taking an off because due to this is considered a threat to productivity?

Period leaves are not something that is generally covered by sick leave. Women, often, need to make excuses of being sick in order to take a leave when they’re suffering from extreme menstrual cramps. 

Caste and menstruation cannot be separated

In an interview with News18, Munusamy said that she has faced discrimination at work since she is a Dalit woman. She further said that in 2014, a senior Supreme Court Advocate asked her not to leave her hair open at work. He said so because he didn’t like the idea of a dark-skinned Dalit woman with open hair in the courtroom. 

One point she also raised in her tweet was the use of #DalitWomanMenstrualExperience. Irrespective of their caste, women all over the world bleed. But the menstruation experience is different on the basis of the woman’s caste and social strata. 

Speaking of the right to work, often women in the upper social strata have the choice to take an off. However, the women who work at small scale jobs on a daily wage rarely have that option. These are often women from the lower strata and period leaves are a different thing to them than it is for the upper-caste women.

Period leaves need to be an option for all women

Period leaves should not only be an option for women in corporate sectors. It should also cater to women working as domestic helpers or even women who do small wage work on a contract basis. These women cannot afford not to come to work for a few days and endure a lump sum cut in their already skewed amount of salary. 

With period leaves being implemented, it’s also essential to restructure our work policies. Women from all sectors irrespective of the kind of work they do, menstruate.

On the one hand, period leaves are a good step in the Indian work culture. But on the other hand, keeping them only to the reach of privileged women is not just. Discussion on period leaves should also involve Adivasi, Dalit, poor and the women from villages who cannot afford to stay at home during their periods or even afford pads.

Picture credits: Twitter

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