SC asks Centre, states for opinion on plea seeking menstrual leave for female students and employees

The PIL sought directions for allowing monthly leave for female students and working women during their menstrual period across the country.
Supreme Court of India.
Supreme Court of India.

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and all state governments whether they could work on a modality and frame guidelines regarding a plea seeking menstrual leave for female students and employees.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court by lawyer Shailendra Mani Tripathi, seeking directions for allowing monthly leave for female students and working women during their menstrual period across the country.

The petitioner (Tripathi) noted that, although he submitted a representation to the Centre in May 2023, nothing final had been decided by the Centre so far.

The Court acknowledged that the issues raised by Tripathi were multifarious and part of state policy, thus initially refusing to entertain the plea, stating it was a matter for the government to address.It, however, asked the Centre and states to look into the issue as to whether they can formulate a model policy or not into the plea.

"We permit the petitioner to move the Secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child Development and to ASG Aishwarya Bhati. We request the Secretary to look into the matter at the policy level, consult all stakeholders, and decide if a model policy can be framed," the bench stated in its order.

The order clarified that it would not prevent state governments from taking steps in this regard.

Tripathi, in his PIL, filed before the Supreme Court alleged that despite making all the provisions in the law to take care of women in difficult stages of their maternity, the very first stage of the maternity, the menstrual period has been knowingly or unknowingly ignored by the society.

Tripathi was directed by the Supreme Court to approach the Ministry of Women and Child Development on the issue.

"Only women are empowered to propagate the human race with their unique ability to create human life, commonly known as maternity. During different stages of maternity, women undergo numerous physical and mental hardships, including menstrual periods, pregnancy, miscarriage, or any medical complications related to these stages of maternity," the PIL stated.

He elaborated that menstrual periods are the genus, with pregnancy, miscarriage, etc., being species, which need society's and the legislature's first attention.

"Bihar is the only state in India providing two days of special menstrual pain leave to women since 1992 through its Human Resources Department," he noted.

"In 1912, the Government Girls School in Tripunithura, located in the erstwhile princely state of Cochin (present Ernakulam district), allowed students to take 'period leave' during their annual examinations and permitted them to write the exams later," the plea added.

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