“Menstrual blood is the only source of blood that is not traumatically induced. Yet, in modern society, this is the most hidden blood, the one so rarely spoken of and rarely seen, except privately by women.”
– Judy Grahn
Due to the unwelcome discomfort, embarrassment, poverty, and illiteracy among the population, the notion of menstruation is still considered to be a social taboo in today’s society. Menstrual taboos are one of the reasons why women have been denied many perks and chances since they are deemed the “second sex,” and this has an impact on their mental, physical, and emotional health. Menstruation is still stigmatized as filthy, unclean, and impure in a patriarchal culture. Despite considerable gains in women’s empowerment in modern times, such as their expanding engagement in a range of employment areas, menstruation is still stigmatized in many societies. Sadly, the majority of countries still do not consider menstrual leave to be a legal entitlement. Menstruating women commonly have to report to work in pain or discomfort as a result, which can be bad for their health and productivity.
In addition to providing much-needed relief to women who are menstruating, establishing menstrual leave as a legal entitlement will also help to eliminate the stigma associated with menstruation. It would promote open and honest talks about the menstrual cycle as well as increase understanding of its biological and physiological aspects. In turn, this could lessen the stigma and embarrassment that menstruating persons typically experience. Additionally, acknowledging the need for menstrual leave in the workplace will advance gender equality and fairness by taking into account the unique needs and experiences of women. Additionally, it would help remove gender-based stereotypes that link menstruation to weakness or inferiority. In the end, establishing menstrual leave as a legal entitlement would be a significant step toward creating a more inclusive society
POLICIES FOR MENSTRUAL LEAVE IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
Menstrual leave, often known as period leave, is a policy that recognizes the challenges and discomforts faced by women who menstruate. Having access to this paid time off may make it easier for women to treat their health without being constrained by job commitments and manage menstruation symptoms like cramps and fatigue. Menstrual leave policies can vary from a few hours to a few days in length and compensation, and they can be paid or unpaid depending on the business or organisation. Around the world, a number of nations, including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, and most recently Spain, have paid menstruation leave regulations. Only Bihar and Kerala, two states in India, offer paid menstruation leave.
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF MENSTRUAL LEAVE IN INDIA
Menstrual leave legislation has been the topic of debate, with some arguing that it discriminates against men and goes against the principles of equality. However, it’s crucial to be aware that the Indian Constitution has affirmative action laws to get rid of discrimination against particular groups, including women and children.
The Indian Constitution’s Article 14 promises “Equality before the law.” Within the boundaries of India, the State must not deny anyone’s right to equal treatment under the law or to equal protection of the laws. Discrimination against people based on their place of birth, ethnicity, caste, religion, or gender is forbidden. Article 14 imposes both a negative and a positive obligation on the state to enact legislation in accordance. Menstrual leave is, therefore, a legitimate justification for creating new regulations for women, and as such, women should be treated differently from males in this situation.
According to clause 3 of Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children,” which is followed by the phrase “Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.” The provision of clause 3 allows the federal government or the states the authority to pass any law that would help women and children. Therefore, for the benefit of women and children throughout the nation, the Centre has the power to create laws and regulations pertaining to menstruation leave.
The Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017, and several more laws pertaining to the empowerment of women and children have also been approved by the Centre under Article 15(3).
One of the provisions that may be invoked to establish a policy that allows women access to period breaks is Article 42 of the Indian Constitution. According to the Directive Principle State Policy, “The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.” In order to provide fair and humane working conditions for women, it is possible to use Article 42 to promote the provision of menstruation leave for women. Menstruation may be a painful and uncomfortable period for many women, which may affect their productivity at work and general well-being. The state may help female workers manage their monthly symptoms and care for their health by offering menstrual leave, which may lead to establishing “just and humane conditions of work” for women.
IS IT APPROPRIATE TO PROVIDE MENSTRUAL LEAVE IN INDIA?
Benefits of Menstrual Leave:
Menstrual leave may help foster a more welcoming and encouraging workplace atmosphere. Menstruation can be acknowledged by employers as a legitimate health issue that requires care, demonstrating a commitment to their employees’ well-being and strengthening working relationships. This may lead to a more positive work environment, higher worker morale, and more productivity.
Additionally, it supports workplace equality for both men and women. Equal and fair working conditions for men and women are also implied by equality in the workplace. For instance, Article 14 stipulates that the “doctrine of reasonable classification” requires that a distinction be logically connected to the intended outcome of the relevant law. Menstrual leave would only be available to women at that time and not to anybody else.
It will lower absenteeism, boosting workplace productivity in the process. Menstrual pain and discomfort are usually linked to absences, which can harm productivity at work. Women may manage their symptoms and return to work feeling better rested and focused if they are given time off for their periods. This may increase their probability of being productive and engaged at work. As a result, both the individual and the business may see an uptick in productivity and general success.
Drawbacks of Menstrual Leave:
The misuse of the menstrual leave policy is one of the primary and most well-known arguments that individuals have. Employees might perhaps misuse the provision to take extra vacation time, or they could just make up an illness to get time off. This might undermine staff morale and confidence in employer-employee relationships, which would undermine the company’s organizational structure.
The menstrual leave policy keeps the gender pay gap in the workplace alive. It is unfair for males in the workplace since men don’t have rules that specifically address their issues, but women have. For example, women have laws like maternity leave that provide them more leave time than men. Men do not experience menstruation or the symptoms that go along with it; therefore it is highly imprecise to claim that they lack a specialized relief policy. At the same time, it is equally vital to mention that. Last but not least, the state’s objective is to foster a welcoming work environment and accommodate the needs of various groups for a variety of reasons, among them, menstruation leave. Some employees may be required to tell their employers about their menstrual cycle and other health issues as a result of the implementation of the menstrual leave policy. This could make some workers feel humiliated, which might make them feel awkward and ashamed in front of their coworkers. Moreover, in certain cultures and nations where it is still considered taboo to mention menstruation in public, it may be seen as impolite or offensive.
The impression that women are too sensitive or emotional to handle the demands of the job may be reinforced by their menstrual leave. Additionally, this policy can convey the impression that it costs more to hire and retain female employees because they may require more time off from work than their male counterparts do. This bias sometimes justifies paying women less than men or outright excluding them from particular professions, which results in discrimination against women in the workplace and when employing staff members.
NECESSITY OF ENACTING MENSTRUAL LEAVE
As was said in the aforementioned article, the term “menstruation” has a lot of social stigmas and taboos in India, where the sense of impurity and contamination is added to the person’s identity while they are having their period. One of the most ignored issues in India, particularly in rural India, is menstrual hygiene. Data on 95,551 teenage women from rural India were analyzed from the most recent phase of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5). In rural India, just 42% of adolescent girls used sanitary products exclusively, and there were notable geographical variations at the state and district levels.
The idea that period leave “medicalizes a natural biological function” is frequently voiced in opposition to it. Menstruation is a normal process, but it comes with uncomfortable side effects like cramps, nausea, and back and muscular pains. Additionally, some women may suffer from conditions like endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can cause even more severe symptoms. According to data cited in the editorial of Indian Express, roughly 25 million people in India have endometriosis and 20% of menstruators (a category that includes women, trans men, and non-binary people who menstruate) have PCOS.20 Implementing a day or two of leave in these circumstances is a much-needed and practical way to safeguard both the woman and her fundamental human rights.
Menstruation leave is often a hotly debated topic in India. While some claim that the policy’s implementation will assist menstruators to be less absent from work and boost productivity. Some claim that implementing such a regulation would exacerbate the societal stigma that has been attached to the word for many generations and would represent women as the inferior sex, increasing gender discrimination in the workplace and in employing new personnel. While the Indian government has not yet made menstruation leave mandatory for all menstruators, certain states and businesses in India have started to provide one or two days of menstrual leave each month. Overall, the introduction of menstruation leave in India would be a tremendous step towards upholding women’s rights and empowering them via the use of laws that are special to their gender. The implementation of this strategy at work will boost output and reduce the “taboo” around menstruation in contemporary India. By consistently talking about and raising awareness about menstruation health and the challenges faced by women in this respect, we may promote more gender equality and inclusion in many areas. It is critical to recognize that menstruation is a normal and intrinsic part of women’s lives and to work together to create a setting that is more supportive and empowering for every woman who goes through it.