Menstrual Leave: What Is The PIL Filed In SC Demanding?

PIL has been filed in SC to allow menstrual leave for girl students and working women at their respective workplaces.

A PIL has been submitted seeking menstrual leave in schools and colleges.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court to allow monthly leave for girl students and working women at their respective workplaces during their menstrual cycle.

The petition was filed by Advocate Shailendra Mani Tripathi alleging that despite making legal provisions to take care of women in various stages of their maternity, the challenges surrounding the menstrual periods have been overlooked by society and lawmakers.

PIL demands menstrual leave from schools, offices

The plea filed by Advocate Tripathi states that, “Only women are empowered to propagate the human race on earth with their special ability of creation of human life, which we commonly call maternity. During different parts or stages of maternity, women undergo a number of physical and mental hardships, be it undergoing menstrual period, pregnancy, miscarriage or any medical complications related to these stages of maternity” he said.

Given the above, the plea demands how menstrual periods are worthy of attention of legislature alongside the processes of pregnancy, miscarriage, etc.

How can periods interfere with regular bodily function

This is a remarkable development considering the taboo nature surrounding periods and the lack of awareness regarding menstrual circles and the toll it can take on the body.

Some common symptoms of menstruation are tender breasts, bloating, fluid retention, muscle ache, joint pain headache, acne, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea or constipation lower back pain trouble sleeping low energy, fatigue.

Symptoms can be extreme as well, with some experiencing excruciating cramps, endometrial pain, heavy bleeding (menorrhagia), weakness and loss of consciousness.

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Does India legally mandate menstrual leave?

A Menstruation Benefit Bill was introduced by a Member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, Ninong Ering in 2017. However, the bill wasn’t passed and as of now, India has no policy for menstrual leave in place.

Bihar is the only state in India that has been allowing two days of special menstrual pain leave to women since 1992. Recently, Kerala government also announced that it will grant menstrual leave to female students at state universities under the Department of Higher Education.

Aside from this, food delivery service Zomato also passed its decision to give female employees up to 10 days of period leave per year following the discussion surrounding menstrual health. Other companies that give menstrual leave are Byju’s and Swiggy.

Why is Menstrual Leave important?

Women make up nearly 50% of the India population, many of whom experience mild to severe symptoms of periods. According to the Endometriosis Society of India, over 25 million women suffer from endometriosis, a condition that can make periods so excruciating that a person can also pass out from it. This makes menstrual leave essential.

As a society, it is not only important to acknowledge such impediments, but to legally provide relief for the welfare of persons with uterus during their respective menstrual cycles. It is well within one’s human rights to seek relief during physical distress, and it serves for any institution’s productivity to allow its members to take leave.

Is the PIL filed inclusive?

Even in the newly filed PIL, I believe there is excessive focus on the stereotypical role of women as “birthgivers” and the extension of its value to menstruation by default. Not all individuals who menstruate identify as women, this is a failure of the PIL to consider LGTBQIA individuals.

Similarly, not all women who menstruate are fertile or consider pregnancy.

Pregnancy should not be the indicator by which consideration for menstruation should be extended to individuals who menstruate. It wrongly implies that women are owed menstrual leave solely due to their “significant” role as mothers, or that individuals who don’t identify as women or are mothers are not entitled to menstrual relief.

Final Thoughts

India has a long way to go in terms of providing relief for women.

In many institutions, there is resistance to the provision of menstrual leaves due to the perception that menstruation is “normal” and should be “tolerated”. There is also a wrongful equating of needing relief from distressing periods to “weakness” or “unprofessionalism”.

It is important to understand that periods effects all those who experience them differently. Awareness should be spread through sex education in schools and institutions to ensure generalization of the menstrual experience doesn’t happen, and more demand can be initiated for compulsory provision of menstrual leave.

Image source: Shora Shimazaki, via pexels and free on CanvaPro

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Ria Tirkey

I am Ria from New Delhi. I'm a student of political science and law and I have a lot to say apparently. read more...

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