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Union Minister Smriti Irani Says She Opposed Menstrual Hygiene Policy As She Doesn’t Want Women To Face Harassment, Bias

In an ANI podcast, Union minister Smriti Irani said, “When I spoke in parliament, I spoke from my personal experience because I don’t want women to be harassed”

Union Minister Smriti Irani Says She Opposed Menstrual Hygiene Policy As She Doesn't Want Women To Face Harassment, Bias
According to the Union minister, menstruation is not a "handicap" and, therefore, does not warrant a "paid leave policy"

New Delhi: Union Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Smriti Irani said that she opposed the Menstrual Hygiene Policy because she did not want women to face discrimination and harassment at the workplace over it. According to the minister, menstruation is not a “handicap” and it shouldn’t warrant a specific policy for “paid leave”.

In an interview with Smita Prakash for the ANI Podcast, the Minister said,

When I spoke in parliament, I spoke from my personal experience because I don’t want more and more women to be harassed.

The minister also said that the question that prompted the statement was intended either to shock, provoke or attract attention. Ms Irani said,

When I spoke in parliament, I spoke from my personal experience because I don’t want more and more women to be harassed.

The minister added,

I could’ve said much more on the issue but I didn’t because the gentleman who asked the question never intended to find a solution for women.

The question was posed by Minister Manoj Kumar Jha as part of the list of questions for oral answers to be asked at a sitting of the Rajya Sabha on December 13.

Also Read: Period Talks: Many Women Feel Menstrual Leave At Workplace Should Be A Valid Option

As per Smriti Irani, the list of questions posed to the WCD minister was, “Will the Minister of Women and Child Development be pleased to state:

a/ Whether govt is planning to roll out a Menstrual Hygiene Policy soon

b/ If so, the details thereof

c/ whether the policy contains provisions to promote and provide for menstrual hygiene among the LGBTQIA community.”

Highlighting question ‘C’ of the list of questions, Ms Irani said that the question for promoting or providing a menstrual hygiene plan for gay men was intended either to shock, provoke or attract attention.

Speaking to ANI Editor Smita Prakash, Ms Irani said,

Tell me, the honourable member wanted a response for the LGBTQIA community. Which gay man without a uterus has a menstrual cycle?

She asserted,

The question was intended either to shock, provoke or to attract attention. Which it did. It did attract attention, it did shock many people, it did provoke controversy, but the question in itself indicates what the intent is.

The minister further said, “Now when I talk about the issue outside the parliament and if I have to reflect on it as a female professional, the LGBTQIA, Manoj Jha wants me to provide an answer on how can I provide for gay men’s menstrual hygiene. Is that applicable?”

Also Read: Lack Of Menstrual Hygiene Management Facilities At Schools Causes Girls’ Absenteeism, Shows A Study Conducted In 14 Districts

Ms Irani also said that Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha could get into trouble with the Chairman of the house for lying or insinuating on the menstrual policy. She said,

The second issue is that Jha says in his communication that Bihar has a policy of menstrual leave. He said this on the floor of the house.

She stated,

If you look at my answer it talks about a policy that is available on the government website. The issue is that in his verbal intervention, he says Bihar has a policy, he insinuates, as though Bihar is an overarching policy which applies to the private sector.

The minister said,

Bihar doesn’t have a private sector policy, the chair can pull him up for lying or insinuating. Bihar may have in 1992, a policy for paid leave for women in government not private.

Ms Irani said,

I clearly said that Menstrual Cycle is not a handicapped possession that women have. I did not call it a disability.

Speaking further she said,

Somebody asked me why did you call it a handicap? I said you open any dictionary, the synonym for handicap is impediment, I did not say disability. Then that person says you don’t know women suffer pain during the cycle?

Pointing out to the person who uploaded a post on social media in response to the WCD minister’s statement on Menstrual Hygiene Policy, Ms Irani said,

Interestingly it was all men, somebody wanted to take out my uterus on the issue.

The whole movement of feminism was so that women could have their opinions voiced themselves no matter what the consequence. And for someone to say I am a “feminist man” and because ‘you have an opinion which is different from mine your uterus must be taken out, is a wrong statement to make, said Irani. Ms Irani stated,

The fact that he can do it with impunity with someone on a constitutional post means there is much more that he can possibly do with the people around him, working with him or within his family. That itself is a frightening proposition for those women.

Ms Irani said,

But what is the issue at hand? I have unionised in media as a professional in many issues as a writer, producer, and an allied worker for people who work behind the screen and our intent for 25 years has been to not create new challenges for women where they get harassed or for that matter where they get discriminated against.

Also Read: Health Ministry Working On National Menstrual Policy To Ensure Access To Safe, Hygienic Products

So imagine that when a parliamentarian tells me that mandate a national policy or leave across all segments on menstrual hygiene, what does it do?

Citing an example on the context, Ms Irani said,

People have to report an implementation? Now imagine a scenario in a private sector where somebody has to implement it, your HR has to know, and the accounts sector has to know.

Ms Irani added,

Why should a woman’s menstrual cycle be known to an employer? Imagine if it’s a single woman who chooses not to take those leaves that are so-called proposed to be granted. Can you imagine the harassment that women would have to face?

Third, can you imagine that when we are saying that more and more women need to come and join the workforce, especially in factory floors and corporate houses?

Imagine a floor with 20,000 women? So we are creating more barriers for discrimination, said the Minister.

Ms Irani said,

What this gentleman (Manoj Jha) did when he asked me this question never told anybody the fact what never came out through any critique is that under the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Rules of 2020, medical leave is already provided for.

She spoke further,

What nobody spoke about is that if you forget Indian institutions if you look at research which is coming from MayoClinic, what do they say, 80-85 per cent of women face it in their lifecycle. If it persists beyond the age of 25 years, you need a checkup, you need a pelvic examination. It is a medical issue, it’s shocking that it is less in married women and more in young girls.

She asserted,

So the issue is that you are creating newer layers for women to get humiliated, for discrimination.

When I spoke in the parliament, I spoke from my personal experience because I don’t want more and more women to be harassed, she said.

She added,

But the question is it not provided for in the law? It is a part of the law already, but it is only in the context of a medical leave which is true because if you look at the challenge with severe pain, that is an indication of a hormone or chemical imbalance or genetic inclination to it especially which means you need a doctor if it is above the age of 25 years.

When asked about the post, K Kavitha, Member of the Telangana Legislative Council uploaded on the Menstrual Hygiene Policy, Ms Irani said,

I don’t expect her to be socially or politically mature.

K Kavitha had posted on X,

Menstruation isn’t a choice; it’s a biological reality. Denying paid leave ignores the genuine pain countless women endure”. As a woman, it’s disconcerting to see a lack of empathy for the genuine challenges women face and the fight we have to put up for everything. It’s high time to indeed bridge the gap between policy-making and reality with empathy and reason.

Ms Irani said,

I have deducted in my experience of working with her as an opposition member, most of them fancy the headline, they don’t fancy the content that provides the solution, even the gentleman that asked the question, why would you ask me about providing menstrual hygiene for gay men.

Ms Irani asserted,

Manoj Jha is asking me for part 1 of his supplementary about the plastic composition of the manufacturing of the sanitary pads. These records are available, Mr Jha knows I’m not manufacturing pads.

The minister said,

So the intent was to create a headline, possibly get featured in one of those brute videos, which happened and it is easier to do when the person who’s responding is as blunt as I am.

Ms Irani said that menstruation is not a “handicap” and, therefore, does not warrant a “paid leave policy”.

Also Read: The Kerala Story: How This Indian State Is Leading The Way For Menstrual Hygiene Management

In her viewpoint, leave for menstruation may lead to women facing discrimination at the workplace.

This stance not only reflects the lack of awareness but also highlights the social stigma around menstruation in India.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.


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