Period Leaves Aren’t ‘Un-Feminist’; They Simply Level The Playing Field Across Genders!

Though all employees must have equal rights at the workplace, the biological needs of each one are different and need to be addressed.

Smriti Irani, Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development rightly said that menstruation is not a handicap. As a response to a question posed by MP Manoj Kumar Jha, Smriti Irani said that menstruation is a natural part of a woman’s life journey.

Both these statements are certainly valid. Being on a period doesn’t make a woman sick. A period is normal and the more dialogue there is surrounding the topic, the sooner it will cease to be a taboo in society.

My house-help’s sister works at a construction site. Every month on the first day of her period, she has to toil at the site and at home despite her excruciating menstrual cramps. She barely pulls through and ends up feeling dead tired at the end of it. However, she cannot afford to take the day off since she needs the money. As I write this, Smriti Irani’s words just seem like privileged remarks. Smriti Irani outrightly opposed the idea of paid menstrual leave by stating that women, who in today’s day and age want to get more economic opportunities, shouldn’t be ‘denied’ an equal opportunity by giving them paid menstrual leaves.

How are menstrual leaves and productivity linked?

Firstly, in my opinion we have misinterpreted the word productivity. It must not be defined as the sum of the number of hours that humans put in, like machines. It should instead, involve a discussion around the quality of the work output.

At times, during exams, when I am on my period, I can barely focus on answering the questions. All I can think of is curling up in bed with a hot pack. A few friends of mine who suffer from PCOS can barely sit through classes when they are on their period. But we get back to it as soon as better.

Keeping this in mind, one should note that period leaves will surely not hamper productivity. Au contraire, they would enable the women of our country to bounce back better after a well- deserved break, if their body seeks it.

A few countries already provide menstrual leaves

Instead of looking at menstruation as a feminism based ideal, if one focused solely on the biological implications of menstruation, it would become clearer as to why this leave is required. With period pain being rampant, countries such as Spain and Japan have made provisions for menstrual leaves. Several gynaecologists have emphasised the need for period leaves.

A quick look at the physiology of menstruation

Oestrogen and Progesterone which are the main female hormones that power women and give them the stamina to work, are at an all-time low during periods. Therefore, the female body’s capacity to work is jeopardised while she is menstruating.

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Additionally, pertaining to jobs that are physically demanding, oestrogen influences bone strength and hence women are more likely to face injuries when they are menstruating. This is vital especially for paid daily-wage workers.

Periods are also the time when overall immunity is lowered, therefore increasing susceptibility to other infections. Thus, guaranteeing paid menstrual leave can reduce sick leaves in the long run and result in overall improvement in the health of the masses.

Period leaves make the playing field equal, and so do not clash with feminism!

People may argue that being feminist and fighting for period leaves is nothing short of a paradox.

However, it is vital to understand that though all employees must have equal rights, the biological needs of each one are different. Over fifty percent of menstruators experience cramps and hence the need for period leave. With my own mother having suffered from extreme period cramps to the point where she would vomit from pain, I strongly believe that women from all sections of society would benefit a lot from menstrual leaves.

So, let us put Smriti Irani at ease by reinforcing the need for period leaves to ensure better health and productivity at a large scale. Women won’t be ‘denied’ an equal opportunity by enforcing menstrual leaves. Instead, they would be given an opportunity to showcase their full potential.

Image source: by sitthiphong Free for Canva Pro

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shreya krishnan

An engineering student with a thing for writing, I hope to become a force to reckon with in the world of media and journalism someday read more...

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