Menstrual Leaves Debate Sparked Again Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani opposed a policy for paid menstrual leaves in the Parliament, adding that it may lead to women in the workforce being discriminated against.

By Kavya Pillai

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Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani opposed a policy for paid menstrual leaves in the Parliament, adding that it may lead to women in the workforce being discriminated against. In response to a question on whether the government was taking any measures to make it compulsory for employers to provide menstrual leave, she said: "As a menstruating woman, menstruation and the menstruation cycle are not a handicap; it's a natural part of women's life journey…"

Dr Somdutta Singh, Founder & CEO, of Assiduus Global Inc, an E-commerce company, while talking about the issue of period leaves said that a "woman is a womb plus a man" and that women have to be as productive as their male counterparts but to do so they need the support of their company. 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 Marvinkure, 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.

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. 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.

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