Spain introduced Menstrual Leaves

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    • Spain has become the first European country to introduce paid menstrual or period leaves.

    About

    • According to the law passed in February 2023, the government of Spain would finance the bill for the monthly paid leaves of three to five days, after a doctor’s note is shown. 
    • The Law also include provisions for free menstrual hygiene products that would be made available in educational centres, prisons, and social centres.

    What is Menstruation?

    • Menstruation is the normal, healthy shedding of blood and tissue from the uterus that exits the body through the vagina. 
    • Menstruation is also called a girls/woman’s ‘period’ or ‘Monthly’.
    • Menstruation happens for most women about once a month. It usually lasts between three and seven days. 
    • It is a sign that a girl can now become pregnant.

    Menstrual Leave

    • It is a type of leave where a woman may have the option to take paid leave from her employment if she is menstruating and is unable to go to work because of this.
    • Global scenario: Many Asian countries have policies on period leaves, the earliest being Japan which passed a law way back in 1947. South Korea did that in 2001.
    • Private sector: Nike included menstrual leave in their Code of Conduct in 2007. In 2020, Food delivery service Zomato introduced a “period leave” policy for women.

    Indian scenario

    • In India since ‘States’ govern the subject of health and their experience has varied. 
    • The Bihar Government has been offering two days of period leave to women employees since 1992.

    Arguments in favour of paid menstrual leave

    • Workplaces need to accommodate biological differences between co-workers. 
    • Women experience a wide range of health complications during their monthly cycle — cramps, back and muscle pains, bloating, headaches, nausea, and dysmenorrhea – which impacts their work productivity.
    • In India, a lack of information and access to sanitary products has led to many girls dropping out of school at puberty.
    • Like Maternity leave, Menstrual leave will promote gender equality.
    • According to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court of India, Article 14 of the Indian Constitution (right to equality) is being violated since some states have menstrual leave policies in place while others do not.

    Arguments against paid menstrual leave

    • Paid menstrual leave has been slow to take hold as national policy in most countries. 
    • Some men and even women have called it a discriminatory measure. It may portray women as less able than men; question women’s work efficiency; Serena Williams won a major tournament while she was pregnant shows that women do not need any “special” treatment.
    • Even in places, where such policies exist, there have not been too many takers because simply changing one policy does not lead to the removal of the taboos associated with menstruation. Many women do not feel comfortable in disclosing their menstrual health.
    • The experience of a period is different for different women, and certainly differs month-to-month for the same woman.
    • Mandating paid leaves could discourage the hiring of women. According to a study, over 1 million women lost their jobs in India in 2018-19 across 10 major sectors owing to the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2016 which doubled paid maternity leave from three to six months. 

    Recommendations

    • Increase the number of paid sick leaves by law for both men and women (but keeping it equal). 
    • Encourage work-from-home policies that allow employees to work remotely for a fixed number of days in a month.
    • Apart from this, the focus should be on normalising menstruation and ensuring ‘Effective Menstrual Hygiene Management’

    Source: IE