By Shrishti Mittal, [Third year student, Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad]
“It hurts. I feel like I’ve laid a million eggs and they’re all hatching.” - New Girl (Television Series)
In a country where Goddesses like Durga and Kali are prayed to and are often portrayed slaying demons and are regraded highly, menstruation or periods remain to be a topic of shame and taboo. Scientifically, when a woman reaches puberty, her body starts preparing for pregnancy, and hence, the lining of the uterus starts to thicken and the ovaries release an egg, which, if not fertilized, is shed with blood, in the form of periods. Parts of India still practice ‘Chhaupadi’, that is the act of considering a menstruating woman impure. In the 21st century India, less than 28 per cent women work and are often met with pain and discomfort during their periods. It becomes increasingly difficult for women to be efficient. Period pain is also aggravated due to conditions such as PCOD or Polycystic Disease of Ovary, of which almost a million women in India alone suffer. A study has proved that period pain causes reduced efficiency at work. Another study also states that almost 20 per cent of the women experience periods that are so painful that they interfere with their daily activities.
The Menstruation Benefit Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, Ninong Ering in 2017. The bill aimed at improving the conditions for women in both public and private sectors of India, directing two days of paid menstrual leave every month. The bill also aimed at making better rest facilities for women available during the time of their periods at their workplace. Ering, relied on a study by University College, London, which states that periods can be as painful as having a heart attack and explained the urgent need for the bill. It was stated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development that there was no plan of the government to have a legislation on the matter in hand.
Places Already Adhering to The Concept of Paid Menstrual Leave :
Zomato - The famous Indian food delivery startup, Zomato has confirmed a new policy of paid menstrual leave for its female employees in 2020.
Flymybiz - In 2019, a Kolkata based company, Flymybiz, introduced the concept of giving their female employees with one paid leave every month as their menstrual leave, for them having 12 extra holidays with addition to their other holidays every year.
Culture Machine - Another Indian company, the Culture Machine started the concept of the First day of Period (FOP), providing their female employees with paid menstrual leave in July 2017. The company also encouraged other companies to adopt the same policy to help their women employees.
Gozoop - Gozoop, a Mumbai based digital marketing company also adopted the policy of providing paid menstrual leave to their employees in 2017. The company also provided the option of work-from-home to its employees.
Nike - The eminent company, Nike, started providing its female employees worldwide with paid menstrual leave in 2007.
The Bihar Government - The government of Bihar has been providing its employees with paid menstrual leave since 1992.
Labor Laws Around the World Regarding Menstrual Leave
Many countries in Asia recognized the need for menstrual leave even before most parts of the world thought about it.
Japan - Japan was the first country in the world to come up with the concept of menstrual leave, back in 1947. Article 68 of the Labor Standards Law of Japan states that whenever a woman if facing difficulty in working due to periods, they must be given a day off by their employer.
Taiwan - Taiwan provides women with 3 days of menstrual leave per year with an addition to 30 health or sick leaves in a year, providing women with 33 days of health-related leaves in a year under the Act of Gender Equality in Employment.