Recently there have been a lot of protests on social media for the 12% GST on sanitary napkins and 0% on condoms. There have been campaigns such a ‘Don’t Tax My Period’ and ‘Lahu ka Lagaan’ on social media, explaining and arguing why this tax is problematic and listing sanitary napkins as a luxury product is not correct.
Notwithstanding the dismissals of stop-making-a-big-deal-about-this, ‘periods’ is the biological cycle that is the very reason why women, for the longest time, have not been allowed to enter places of worship, and it was only last year that the #RightToPray paid off with women activists setting foot in Sabarimala temple’s sanctum sanctorum.
While it’s no secret that period cramps are the worst, over the years, women have had to show up to work and mask their pain with a silly excuse. Recognizing this pain and the taboo around it, Culture Machine Media Pvt. Ltd. has initiated a new leave policy, called First Day of Period Leave, where women can take a leave on the first day of their period, which is usually when the pain is at its worst.
The organisation has 75 women employees, who have given a thumbs up to the Human Resources department for the new policy.
“First day is obviously a not-so-comfortable day for most. It’s time we face the reality. This is not an embarrassment. This is part of life,” said Devleena S Majumder, president of human resource at Culture Machine. “I don’t think the pain can be taken away but you can make the work environment more conducive.”
You must watch the video that the company released that featured the women of Culture Machine, who were oblivious of this new change, at the time of the shoot. They were told for the first time on camera and this is how they reacted. https://youtu.be/avPgUxGC1Sg
First Day of Period Leave | Blush Originals | #FOPLeave
Japan has had menstrual leave in place since just after World War II. According to the 1947 Labor Standards Law, women suffering from painful periods or those whose jobs might exacerbate period pain are allowed seirikyuuka (meaning ‘physiological leave’). At the time the law was written, women were entering the workforce in record numbers, and workplaces like factories, mines and bus stations had little by way of sanitary facilities. The new law, writes researcher Alice J. Dan, was “a symbol for women’s emancipation. It represented their ability to speak openly about their bodies, and to gain social recognition for their role as workers.”
The 2013 amendment to the country’s Act of Gender Equality in Employment guarantees female workers three days of menstrual leave a year, in addition to the 30 days of half-paid sick leave allotted to all workers. The act originally folded menstrual leave into the regular 30 days of sick leave, prompting a gender-diverse coalition of politicians to claim this was a violation of women’s basic rights.
Female employees in provinces like Northern Shanxi, Central Hubei and Central Anhui are able to take one or two days off “on production of a certificate from a legal medical institute or hospital.
Indonesian women are entitled to take two days a month of menstrual leave, though many companies simply ignore the law, and others have even been accused of harassment in wake of the law.
Women workers in South Korea were granted menstrual leave in 2001, though an experiment in extending the policy to female university students was deemed a failure (“faculty members decided that the policy was being abused as an excuse for absence”). The policy has lately come under fire from Korea’s men’s rights activists, who, despite Korea’s heavily male-dominated work culture, see it as a form of discrimination.
Recently, Italy became the first European country to allow a paid period leave for women. The leave will only be available to women who have dysmenorrhea, which is a condition that makes periods extremely painful. These women will be free to take three days of paid leave every month.
Nike introduced menstrual leave in 2007 and makes business partners sign a memorandum of understanding to ensure they maintain the company’s standards
The idea of menstrual leave for women was floated in Russia as well, in 2013, but to no avail.
In the UK, the company, Coexist, has reportedly introduced a ‘period leave’ policy in an attempt to synchronize work with women’s monthly cycle.
The company’s senior management stated: “As a manager of staff, I have seen women really suffer with their periods and I have found them doubled over in a lot of pain. They feel guilty and ashamed for taking time off and often sit at their desks in silence not wanting to acknowledge it. It started from there and we thought we had to see what we could do about it and try and break the last great taboo”
When we take a closer look back home, Bihar government has been following this policy in several departments from the past two decades. As per their Human Resource guidelines available online, ‘All women staff is eligible to avail two days of special leave every month because of biological reason. This is in addition to all the other eligible leaves.’
Now a petition has been floated to the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Women and Child Development to apply this policy across India
One would imagine that if leave is not an option, at least ‘work from home’ should be. Work from home has been proven to be a good deal for both employers and employees, it doesn’t kill productivity as is commonly feared in India’s work culture. Maybe, companies can adjust their holidays to menstrual days or allow them to compensate on weekends, in order to enable a stress-free environment at work.
It’s great. But the period leave must not be just for the privileged few. There are maids who have to do strenuous labour on those days too. (Forget chocolates, AC and reading on bed).
How many women would be ready to give paid leaves for the maids??
The hazard in mandated “menstrual leave” is that it further stigmatizes an issue by reinforcing wrong-headed thinking that modern, educated, and forward-thinking society has spent years trying to shed.
Some feel that their male counterparts would have an edge if such leaves are introduced, portraying them as weaker sex, while others feel there’s nothing sexist about this idea
Some will call it an extension for freebies for women who claim equal pay but want freebies like paid ‘maternity leave’ and now ‘period leave’. It could be argued that, if women suddenly require several paid menstrual days a month, they are indeed a weaker sex and, moreover, that they are privileged over men
Some feel that their male counterparts would have an edge if such leaves are introduced, portraying them as weaker sex, while others feel there’s nothing sexist about this idea.
A lot of women themselves are against it, say Sagarika Chakraborty, CEO, IIRIS
Menstruation has nothing to do with the power to cloud work productivity. By applying for such a leave, are we not doing just the opposite? We talk of breaking glass ceilings and then add some more by such restrictive opinions ourselves.
Yes, a lot of them would say you cannot equate a man and a woman during “those days,” but the truth is why do we need to equate physiologies? We need to equate professionalism – the very fact that tells me that if I am unable to do a physical surveillance (I am a security professional and a corporate investigator), I will make alternate arrangements (this is akin to a man who can suffer a migraine attack doing rounds in sun) – instead of me portraying to the corporate world that I am not good enough, write me off for those two days
The Maternity leave bill was passed by the Parliament in March this year, which granted 26 weeks of paid leave instead of just 12 weeks.
And now with a firm offering ‘first day of period leave’, just shows that India is ready to embrace more working women in the working culture. We already have our hopes high!
Cover Image Credit – María Victoria Heredia Reyes from Unsplash
We are a group of CAs and IIM Ahmedabad graduates. In Aug’13, we launched cajobportal.com as India’s first recruitment website exclusively for Chartered Accountants