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The Menstrual Leave Issue: 7 Women Tell Us Their Thoughts On Friday the Supreme Court of India disposed of a plea (Shailendra Mani Tripathi v. Union of India) seeking menstrual leaves for female students and workers across the country.

By Kavya Pillai

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"A woman on an average has 480 periods," said Dr Somdutta Singh, Founder & CEO, of Assiduus Global Inc, an E-commerce company, while talking about the issue of period leaves. She also said that a "woman is a womb plus a man" and that women have to be as productive as their male counterparts. Not only she but six more women shared their experiences with menstruating during work with us.

On Friday the Supreme Court of India disposed of a plea (Shailendra Mani Tripathi v. Union of India) seeking menstrual leaves for female students and workers across the country. The Plea was heard by the Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud about whom Tanya Appachu a lawyer and digital creator said is known to be "progressive".

The plea seeking menstrual leaves sparked a lot of debate and was contested in the media for various reasons. One of the questions asked by the public on social media was if women don't already call in sick at work during their periods.

The answer however is not so simple. Appachu shared how once she had some work at the Customs Office in Mumbai and was on her period. She had to get her work done but what made it difficult was not only the pain where she said "I was numb below my waist" but also the fact that she was made to wait in the office for "four hours" with no hygienic washroom. Niyati Mavinkurve, Digital Creator recalled her days during her articleship when her leaves were limited and she had to be careful to not avail them and save them for the time before her exams. She said there was a time when she "literally had to rest at the clients' office" due to unbearable pain and exhaustion. Interestingly this attribute of pushing through the pain is common among everyone we interviewed.

Arushi Sethi, Founder and CEO, of Trijog, a mental healthcare organisation , shared that "your body and your mind are producing different kinds of hormones that can not let you be at the optimum even if you want to." The act of working through the pain is not only seen in corporates but lifestyle influencer Prableen Kaur too shared a time when she was on her period and had an important shoot that involved "standing for long hours without enough breaks." And its not just about the pain. Aastha Shah a Digital Creator looked back on her days as a financial advisor and shared that during an important presentation with a CEO, she was "unable to focus during the meeting" as she was menstruating.

Talking about the PIL (Public Intrest Litigation) Simran Balar Jain, Digital Creator shared how if it were to be granted, "it would be a significant step towards normalizing menstrual health." Appachu pointed out that more importantly, the leaves are not for women who work out of well-furnished and hygienic conditions but for the majority of women who don't. " The states of Bihar and Kerala already have period leaves and if it has worked, I don't see it not working for women across the country," she added.

A bench of the Chief Justice and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala said there was a policy dimension in the case and that the petitioner could file a representation before the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development. The Bench agreed that if such leave is compelled it would automatically operate as a disincentive to hire or engage women employees.

Kavya Pillai

Entrepreneur Staff

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