Menstrual Leave; a privilege!

Menstruation; a taboo even in 21st century. Well by definition, it is a process of periodic (once a month) blood and mucosal tissue discharge from the uterus starting from puberty to menopause. Sounds pretty normal right? In reality, no matter how natural this phenomenon is, it is considered to be impure and non-pious. Reason being lack of awareness! It is such a taboo in India that even talking about menstruation in public is considered as a sign of shamelessness.

Women are prohibited from entering kitchen, temples etc. during their menstruation. In some parts of India, they are even restricted from carrying out their daily chores like cooking, cleaning etc. They are asked to sit in a separate corner, refrained from touching anything. Well at least in Urban cities and towns, people are more aware and sensible compared to rural areas. Women are not restricted from doing their work; be it household chores like cooking and cleaning or working in an office.

But is it enough to just be sensible and not impose any rules on women during their menstruation? There is a lot more to menstruation then just blood and tissue discharge. Women’s body undergo several hormonal changes during their menstruation. Menstruation can last from anywhere between 3 to 8 days, usually 5 days. During this period, Women may experience heavy cramps (stomach ache, backache), bloating, weakness, mood swings, diarrhoea, headaches and many such behavioral swings. It is the time of the month when they need more care, attention and love than usual.

Menstrual leave – India

Like many countries, in November 2017, a Menstruation Benefit bill 2017 (a private member’s bill) was introduced by Lok Sabha MP, Sh. Ninong Ering in Lok Sabha. In 2022, Ering as an MLA introduced the same bill on the first day of 2022 Budget session in Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly. But unfortunately, this bill didnot pass as no provide member’s bill has been passed by parliament since 1970.

This bill includes

i) Right to Menstrual leave – providing/seeking paid leave to menstruating school and college going girls, women in jobs.

ii) Regulation of working hours during menstruation – women are entitled to thirty minutes of rest period twice a day for four days during her menstruation cycle.

iii) Establishment to have Crèche facility- Organization having more than 50 employees shall have a crèche facility within distance.

iv) Duty to inform the benefits – Every women currently working/new joining women will be informed in any form of written communication about this act/law.

v) Punishment – Organization that denies these mentioned rights to menstruating women will be entitled to imprisonment for a term greater than or equal to a month with a fine of anywhere between ten thousand to fifty thousand rupees.

Need for leave

Many women go through severe symptoms like cramps, mood swings etc. due to hormonal changes. Severe blood loss is in the initial 2 days. These 2 days can be really exhausting and disturbing for women. Currently there is not enough facilities and hygiene in the industries for menstruating women, like clean washrooms, rest rooms, emergency sanitary napkins making it really difficult to work in the industries. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that menstruation is to be taken seriously!

Companies that provide Menstrual leave

Several companies in India have the provision of Menstrual leave. Companies like Zomato, Byju’s, Swiggy etc have policies of menstrual leave, a classic step towards gender sensitization.

9 companies in india that provide menstrual leave;

  1. iVIPANAN – A digital marketing service provider company introduced menstrual leave policy on 9th August 2020. Being a female-centric firm they believed it is not a right thing to make them work during her menstruation. Therefore, they provide 12 menstrual leaves annually.
  2. Zomato – a food delivery company, provides paid menstrual leaves.
  3. Byju’s – It is an Edtech start-up, provides 12 paid leaves annually.
  4. Swiggy – Again a food delivery company, provides 2 days paid leaves every month.
  5. Mathrubhumi – A Malayalam media organization, announced menstrual leave policy in 2017.
  6. Magzter – a digital magazine platform firm in Chennai provides 1 menstrual leave per month.
  7. IndustryARC – a research and consulting start-up provides 1 or 2 period leave a month.
  8. FlyMyBiz – a digital media company provides 12 leaves annually.
  9. GoZoop – a digital marketing company provides 1 leave per month.

How can we bring awareness about Menstruation?

It is not unknown that students are taught about menstruation cycle in the school as a part of their education. But only teaching about menstruation is not enough, talking and discussing about menstruation can bring thousand times more awareness. Openly discussing about menstruation can empower young girls. Discussions should not only be carried out with girls, but with every gender to make them aware about the complexity of women’s body and menstruation pain. Not talking or hush talks about menstruation is the root cause of this problem. Young girls are unaware of menstrual hygiene, menstrual products just because there is no one to teach them these things. If this discussion would’ve been done before, people would not have to fight for menstrual leave now. Due to stigma around menstruation and the complexity about female anatomy, women shy away from discussing problems they face. Due to which, many dangerous diseases like vaginal infections go untreated, resulting into compromises in health.

Baby steps for awareness!

  • Talk about Menstruation with your children. Educate them about Menstruation and body behaviour during menstruation.
  • Educate them about hygiene.
  • Discuss problems/diseases related to reproductive organs to make them aware and confident enough to speak up when they observe anything abnormal.