Explained | Menstrual leave and its global standing

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Source: The post is based on the article Explained | Menstrual leave and its global standing” published in The Hindu on 27th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Social Justice

Relevance: issues associated with menstrual policies

News: The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a PIL that sought menstrual leave for workers and students across the country. According to the petition filed, the lack of menstrual leave in certain States is a violation of Article 14.

What is Menstrual leave?

Menstrual leave or period leave refers to all policies that allow employees or students to take time off when they are experiencing menstrual pain or discomfort.

At the workplace, it refers to policies that allow for both paid or unpaid leave, or time for rest.

What are the problems associated with menstrual cycle?

Most women experience a menstrual cycle of 28 days, and a normal cycle may vary from 23 to 35 days. The cycle leads to period pain (dysmenorrhea) for some of the women.

This pain lasts for a couple of days a month for some and for others the pain hampers daily activities and productivity.

It was estimated that employees lost around 8.9 days’ worth of productivity every year due to menstrual-cycle related issues.

Hence, menstrual leave policies are needed to allow leave to women. However, there are different stands on the need of the policy.

What are the different views on menstrual policy?

People supporting policy argue that menstruation is a biological process and women should not be discriminated against it in educational institutions and workplace.

However, others argue that menstrual leaves policies are not required because it will lead to discrimination against women by the employers.

What kind of menstrual leave policies are in place globally?

Spain: Spain recently became the first European country to grant paid menstrual leave to workers.

Japan: Japan introduced menstrual leave as part of labour law in 1947. However, as per a recent study, less than 0.9% of the women had actually taken leave.

Indonesia: It introduced a policy in 1948 which said that workers experiencing menstrual pain are not obliged to work on the first two days of their cycle.

Philippines: Workers are permitted two days of menstrual leave a month.

Taiwan: It has an Act of Gender Equality in Employment. The act says employees have the right to request a day off as period leave every month, at half their regular wage.

There are other countries that allow menstrual leave like the United Kingdom, South Korea, Zambia, China and Wales. Private Companies like Nike and Coexist have introduced menstrual leave as an internal policy.

However, the U.S does not have a formal menstrual leave policy.

What attempts are being made in India?

Private Companies: Companies like Zomato, Swiggy, Byjus have brought menstrual leave policies.

State governments: Bihar and Kerala are the only states to introduce menstrual leave to women. Recently, the Kerala government has also announced that the State’s Higher Education department will now grant menstrual and maternity leaves for students in universities.

Parliamentary measures: The measures taken in the Parliament have been mostly unsuccessful.

For example, The Menstruation Benefits Bill, 2017 was introduced in the Parliament but was disregarded as an unclean topic. Later, the Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill was introduced in 2018 but wasn’t approved.

However, again The Right of Women to Menstrual Leave and Free Access to Menstrual Health Products Bill, 2022 will be introduced in the Parliament.

It provides for three days of paid leave for women and transwomen during the period of menstruation. It also seeks to extend the benefit for students. As per the Bill, around 40 percent of girls miss school during their periods.

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