New Delhi: With Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani saying menstruation is not a “handicap” and does not require a policy for “paid leave”, several working women feel a few days of leave to rest and recuperate from the effects of periods is a valid option. Debilitating abdominal cramps, unrelenting headache, persistent fatigue and mood swings are some of the symptoms a woman may experience during her menstrual cycle each month.
Annu Matthew, a media professional from Kerala, said periods are not an “imagined affliction” and have physical as well as mental manifestations. Matthew told PTI,
For some, it manifests as physical pain. Even when we’re not doubled over due to cramps, there could be days when you’re a little bit clouded in judgement or just can’t think straight at all.
Clinical psychologist Shweta Sharma echoed Matthew’s thoughts on the impact of periods on women and said they “may react more strongly to stressors or emotional stimuli”. She noted,
Some women report changes in cognitive function, such as difficulty concentrating or memory lapses, during their periods. The physical discomfort and emotional changes associated with menstruation can contribute to increased stress levels.
Ms Sharma added that menstrual leave should be allowed “as and when required” since the experience of the menstrual cycle can “vary widely among different women”. She said,
Each woman’s menstrual cycle is influenced by various factors, including genetics, hormonal levels, overall health, lifestyle, and individual differences.
Talking about her own experience, relationship coach Jeevika Sharma shared that 13 years ago 80 per cent of her clients were against period leave. She said,
They were in no need to rest during periods and in the present day they are suffering mentally and physically to an extent where they are under either therapies or medication. They have made suffering part of their lives.
She suggested that offices should keep aside 12-20 leaves a year for women that they can use at any time of discomfort during their periods. Jeevika Sharma added,
It is not only about the pain women go through but in most cases it is the phase of anxiety and depression rather than pain where women need a day off to cure themselves mentally.
On Wednesday (December 13), while refusing to entertain a proposal for menstrual leave, Ms Irani argued that it might deny equal opportunity to women. She said in Rajya Sabha,
Given today women are opting for more and more economic opportunities, I will just put my personal view on this, I am not the officiating ministry. We should not propose issues where women are in some way denied an equal opportunity just because somebody who does not menstruate has a particular viewpoint towards menstruation.
The BJP MP added,
As a menstruating woman, menstruation and the menstruation cycle is not a handicap, it’s a natural part of women’s life journey.
Mrs Irani was responding to a question by RJD MP Manoj Kumar Jha on menstrual hygiene policy in the country.
PR professional Deepika Maheshwari also said that women “deserve the autonomy to manage their health without facing scrutiny”. Maheshwari said,
I believe period leaves should be a valid option in the workplace… It’s a personal choice, and if someone isn’t feeling well, their well-being should take precedence over unnecessary questioning.
The debate for menstrual leave has been part of the parliamentary discourse in the past as well with the question being raised twice in the matter of a few days. Last week, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in Lok Sabha last week asked “whether the government has considered to make provision for paid menstrual leave”.
Ms Irani in her written response said,
At present, there is no proposal under consideration of the government to make.
Several countries across the world have taken the initiative of mandating paid menstrual leave at workplaces, including Spain, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Zambia, and Vietnam.
The concept, however, is not so alien to India. Since 1992, Bihar has allowed two days of paid leave every month to women employees during their menstrual cycle.
Earlier this year, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said his government will grant menstrual leave for female students in all state universities.
However, not all women are in favour of menstrual leave as some, including actor Kangana Ranaut, pointed out that “unless it’s some specific medical condition”, women don’t need paid leave for periods. Ms Ranaut wrote on Instagram,
Working woman is a myth, there hasn’t been a single non-working woman in the history of mankind, from farming to house chores to raising kids. Women have always been working and nothing has come in the way of their commitment to their families or community or nation… Please understand it’s periods, not some illness or handicap.
Another communication professional, Shivani Mehta, agreed with Mrs Irani and said that one should “accept it and deal with it” because it is part of the daily routine. Ms Mehta said,
Taking responsibility is better than being lazy or staying home. If you’re busy, you will not remember the pain. If women take the right diet and exercise before and during the periods, the pain level can decrease.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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