Menstrual Leave

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Bini Dahal

Spain recently passed a bill to become the first nation in Europe to offer a menstrual leave to its female workers. The bill envisages providing the female workers with paid leaves for which the payment will come from the government’s own treasury. This is definitely a progressive step towards women’s welfare.

Menstruation is a monthly biological phenomenon that happens to every girl and woman. Many experience period pains and heavy bleeding during menstruation. Dysmenorrhea is a pain associated with women. Pain or menstrual cramps could range from mild to severe. But pain can make it difficult for girls and women to go along with their day-to-day activities. Many find it very difficult in their first and second days of the monthly cycle. Therefore, certain nations like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia have developed women-friendly policies. 

Menstrual leaves are provided to female employees so that they can get proper rest at home, without much stress, work pressure and difficulty. Slowly, the number of companies and firms embracing this provision is increasing. But policy perspectives and changes are gauged against their positives and negatives. So, people get divided on their opinion about menstrual leave. While some people openly applaud this concept, some believe such leaves will be misappropriated. Someone might fake period pain just to take advantage of the leave.

Obviously, this could happen. But, those who want to escape their duties will get free anyhow. It could mean making use of any kind of leaves- normal leaves, menstrual leaves or health leaves. Gender stereotyping can be promoted through these policies as they can cause differences to be created. The work environment should be more flexible to accommodate them. A company culture that is free of menstruation-related stigma is necessary. 

In a world where productivity and economic growth are our sole focus, many believe that leave can harm productivity. However, it is common sense that someone who cannot focus well or cannot give their hundred per cent attention is already causing a firm’s productivity to decline. 

In the context of Nepal, there are only rare instances where companies have incorporated the idea of menstrual leave. Depending on the situation, female workers simply ask for leave on the pretext of feeling unwell. We still live in a society where people feel extremely uncomfortable to even carrying menstrual pads in a transparent plastic bag. We want it to be properly paper-wrapped so that people do not know what it is. Thus, there is a high stigma about the monthly process. 

Menstrual leaves act as a medium for female workers on periods to take proper rest and heal their bodies. However, to normalise it is not something that will happen immediately. It is a long-term process and very few have begun the journey. Even if a particular category of menstrual leave is not given, firms and companies – be it governmental or non-governmental – should develop a female worker-friendly comporate culture. 

Bitter as it may sound, menstruation is the same biological phenomenon that has helped generations to sustain. But it is the same subject that most women are shy to talk about and something they keep to themselves only. Praising what the Spanish government has come up with, it is time for our government, too, to facilitate creating a country free of stigma related to menstruation.  

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