Govt says no provision for period leave, activists call for debate

In the Supreme Court, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was also filed last month seeking menstrual leave for girl students and women workers.

Published: 05th February 2023 09:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th February 2023 09:48 AM   |  A+A-

Period cramps, period pain, period leave

Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

NEW DELHI: As the debate over the demand for paid menstrual leaves for women in workplaces gets louder, the Union government’s response to the demand hasn’t enthused many. The government on Friday said that it has not considered making provision for mandatory paid menstrual leave for women in all workplaces.

It comes at a time when the Kerala government has announced menstrual leave to all female students of state universities. While a few companies in India such as Zomato, Swiggy, Mathrubhumi, and Magzter among others have a menstrual leave policy in place, not many would know that in 1992, the Bihar government granted two days period leave for government employees after the women fought a long battle for the cause.

Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India, says that instead of outrightly rejecting the provision of menstrual leaves, there should be more debates and discussions on the issue of menstrual health.

“I fear that a section of people will say that this will be misused by women,” said Muttreja. “I believe that the government needs to do more to distribute good quality sanitary pads to ensure good menstrual health. I have seen that free sanitary pads which are given under state schemes are of poor quality,” she says.

Significantly, the ongoing Budget session of the Parliament will also see a private member’s Bill seeking three days of paid leave for women and transwomen during menstruation. In his proposed Bill, Congress MP from Kerala Hibi Eden has cited examples of countries like Japan, Taiwan, China, Korea, Indonesia, and Mexico, which have provided women with menstrual leaves. “Menstruation and its debilitating nature, though a reality, are often hushed. According to reports, approximately 40 per cent of girls miss school during their periods. Nearly 65 per cent said it had an impact on their daily activities at school as a consequence of discomfort, anxiety, shame, and concerns about leakage and uniform discolouration,” says the Bill.

In the Supreme Court, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was also filed last month seeking menstrual leave for girl students and women workers.

Kavya Menon, a menstrual therapist says that allowing menstrual leaves for women’s workforce would ensure an inclusive and gender-just environment at the workplace.

“Our work culture is mainly designed for the male body and that’s where the resistance to the period leaves comes from. It’s a human rights issue. There should be a better understanding of woman’s body and menstrual health."

While the government argues that menstruation is a normal physiological phenomenon and only a small proportion of women suffer from severe dysmenorrhea or similar complaints and most of these cases are manageable by medication, Menon disagrees.

“We should understand that more than 50 per cent of the population bleeds every month. Though periods are not debilitating, some women face extreme difficulties. It doesn’t suffice with regular medical leave. Even in places where the period leaves are given, because of the stigma attached, only those who have extreme discomfort use it,” she says. 


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