Dear Society, You Owe Us Period Leave. Here’s Why – And How!

Women do plenty for procreation. Practically enabling period leave is one of the ways society needs to compensate women!

Not too long ago, the issue of period leave was being discussed by our politicians. While, in today’s world, everyone is sympathetic, the idea rarely seems feasible.

Women worry that institutions and organizations will be less likely to hire them, if period leave is mandated by the government.

I have been blessed with relatively benign periods. As a result, in my teenage years, I never understood what the fuss was about. It’s normal right, so what’s the big deal? No need to be wimpy and give into the societal stereotype that women are weak, I used to quip.

Well, I learned that periods are not easy for everyone. Period pain can be debilitating for many. Dysmenorrhea affects a significant percentage of girls and women in India. While in some cases the underlying cause can be identified and either treated or managed, in other cases there is no clear cause. Primary dysmenorrhea which has no known underlying cause, can significantly impact quality of life and result in absenteeism from school and work. Painkillers like paracetamol don’t work for everyone.

So what then?

It’s a Part of Life

Many argue that it’s just a part of life, and that women should grin and bear it.

Yes, life indeed! And where does that come from? Women bear a lion’s share of the cost of procreation. From creating a new home for a baby every month for decades, to housing each baby for three quarters of a year, whilst enduring morning sickness and various other forms of discomfort, culminating in several hours of intense labor pains, most women divert considerable time, energy and effort towards procreation.

This, even without considering the various period and pregnancy related complications like endometriosis, PCOS, PID, gestational diabetes, pre-clampsia, post-partum depression etc.

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But instead of being compensated for their asymmetric contribution towards perpetuating the species, women are often punished for it. In addition to societal bias and prejudice, even from a practical point of view, having to provide maternity leave makes companies reluctant to hire women.

Financial Feasibility

It is costly for startups and small and medium businesses to provide paid maternity leave. And now we are asking for period leave! Is that even feasible? Won’t companies become even less likely to hire women causing more women to lose out on career opportunities in the process?

But why should women lose out? Why do solutions towards such problems always have to come from women compromising. Women do plenty for procreation. But what does society as a whole do to compensate women?

It is not reasonable to expect businesses to bear the cost of maternity leave, period leave, etc, when they do not gain anything from it. That would inevitably lead to discrimination in hiring practices.

On the other hand, human society owes women for their extensive contribution to perpetuating the species. So, society as a whole should compensate women.

In case your wondering how this bizarre idea could be implemented, let me explain. We are already charged an education tax by the government to subsidize education because we believe it is important to provide equal opportunities and quality education for all children. True in practice, this is not yet implemented as well as one would hope, we are working towards it and someday we might actually get there.

So why not do the same for women? Since businesses can’t afford paid maternity or period leave the government an pay them to offer it.

Win-win

Just like the education tax, the government can charge a small procreation tax. This amount can be used to pay out claims by small businesses or companies that file appropriate paperwork for expenses incurred for paid maternity or period leave.

This way it is society as a whole (women of child bearing age, say 18 to 45, could be exempted from paying this tax) that contributes to bearing the burden of procreation, just as it should be. Then women can procreate without worrying about losing career opportunities.

Additionally, work from home and other simple inexpensive flexibilities can be provided to retain women of child bearing age in the workforce.

Happier, less stressed women will contribute to a productive and diverse workforce.

Misuse

Is there a potential for misuse? As with anything else, there always is. But regulating period and maternity leave, setting clear and reasonable limits, and offering flexibility in the implementation of these conveniences, can limit the scope of misuse.

For example women can be offered say ten annual days of period leave so they judiciously use it only when they really need it. Some women have one day of intense pain and can take a day off for every period. Others get it at a particular time of day. So perhaps offering the options of one day that can be taken as two half days would benefit some women. Some other women have only a couple of painful periods a year, with each lasting a few days, so they might want to clump up their period leave.

Never being pregnant is one of the risk factors for dysmenorrhea. Yet many women are delaying pregnancy to get further in their career. So perhaps, period leave could be offered to those who have taken less than two stints of maternity leave.

Where There’s a Will …

Regulations can be discussed and ideas can be proposed to limit misuse and address various problems, but we as a society must recognize the contribution women make to procreation, and be willing compensate them accordingly by accommodating their reproductive system related medical concerns in the workplace.

We can start small, perhaps, by allowing women to swap period leave with other holidays and weekends. If the job permits, the work from home option can be made available. In many cases, just an hour long afternoon nap can make a world of difference. Small efforts to alleviate period related discomfort would go a long way towards making women more confident, comfortable and productive in the workplace, in addition to sensitizing society to the difficulties women face during periods.

Declining Population

As societies develop and standard of living improves, the birthrate typically falls. One of the reasons, is that women find parenthood detrimental to advancing their career.

However, population is one of the nation’s greatest resources, and while with the looming climate crisis, a declining population has some advantages, if the decline continues over time, it can become a liability.

The replacement fertility rate to maintain a steady population is about 2.1 children per woman. India, on average, has already fallen below this since 2020, and the trend indicates that the fertility rate will continue to fall.

Many European countries over the last half century have thrived in spite of their fertility rate being below replacement rate. So is this really a problem?

The answer is yes. While some countries haven’t experienced problems in spite of declining fertility rates well below replacement rate, their population has been replenished through immigration, keeping them stable.

But what happens as the global fertility rate falls below replacement rate? Perhaps a shrinking population may help us weather the storm of climate change, in the long run it can prove to be quite harmful, leading to various economic and social problems.

One obvious solution to stem the rate of population decline is to improve working conditions for women so their reproductive health concerns do not diminish their chances for a successful career.

Bottom Line

It is in the mutual interest of women and human society as a whole, that women be made comfortable in the workplace. So, instead of making excuses about why improving work place conditions for women may be difficult, let’s put our heads together and look for solutions.

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About the Author

kanika

Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to entertain her older daughter with stories, thus opening the flood gates on a suppressed passion. Today she has written over read more...

101 Posts | 440,795 Views

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