This post is written by Pratyaksha Singh and Aastha Sharma of UPES, Dehradun, India.
“Gradually, my whole concept of time changed until I thought of a month as having twenty-five days of humanness and five others when I might just as well have been an animal in a steel trap.”
― Florence King
Menstruation is not a disease, problem or taboo. They are often termed as “That time of the month”. Half of the female population hide periods like they hide the sanitary napkins in the newspaper or black plastic. At the intersection of menstruation and work, obstacles in the professional lives of women have recently gained the spotlight. While periods and period pain affect different people in different ways, in most cases, it can take a toll on their bodies, altering their day to day lives.
Perhaps once women start normalising periods, in a way that they are normal and how it is linked to the own dignity of women, being considerate towards and getting sensitised to the needs, the needs that need to be acknowledged that every individual has different requirements period leaves can then percolate down to the unorganised sector and rural workspaces, where women have far fewer choices. It might also help remove the stigma and the label of inconvenience and the taboo that is historically attached to periods.
Men argue about women getting special treatment if they are receiving a menstruation leave. Some things cannot be changed. It is normal. It is not at all about equal rights anymore but dignity. In Indian society, there is pressure that women feel. Not sure that is opaque in every situation, but in most cases, transparency is a significant concern that needs not to be heard and listened to but adhered to.
Last year, most people lashed out at Zomato when they announced their period leaves policy, even though they were not the first to do it. It was found to be discriminatory towards men, and inequality seemed like a significant factor there. With menstrual leaves, one is talking about equity, not equality. Equity considers people’s socio-economic and biological structures, and then the policies are being made.
In a developing country like India, where the awareness and access to safe reproductive and menstrual health have still not reached every part of the country and the mentality and age-old practices, menstrual leaves hold even more significance and a dream concept to be expected.
Since access to period leaves is a long road ahead, or a dream concept we can foresee, it is vital to put some alternate ways in which menstruating employees could be supported physically and emotionally at the workplace.
Setting aside the taboos can be the first good start. Comprehensive customised health insurance plans can be helpful, which are not even anywhere being looked at.
Compared to the other countries, Japan’s period leave entitlement has existed for more than 70 years, and the government is not alone in Asia in such a policy. South Korea adopted period leave in 1953. Moreover, provinces and companies are increasingly adopting menstruation leave policies with various entitlements in China and India.
The landscape on the other side of the world, however, looks a lot different. Period leave policy is almost non-existent in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe. According to the OECD‘s Murakami, part of the reason women is not taking period leave is that the culture around leave and menstruation makes women fear that taking it could lead to discrimination by their employers.
Another company that could serve as the benchmark for inclusive policies is Netflix.
Netflix gives the benefit of unlimited parental leave to its employees. The policy is available in the first year after a child is born or adopted, with both parents allowed to take as much time off as they deem fit. Throughout the period, total salaries and other benefits are offered to the employees. It helps them retain talent and help the employees perform better.
While the road towards progressive policies at the workplace is long, it is great to see several companies taking the initiative. Let us hope more companies follow suit when it comes to providing benefits to menstruators at the workplace.
The help for period leave lies on a sound rights-based contention — that work environments need to oblige organic contrasts between collaborators. Period leave permits ladies to rest during their feminine cycle legitimately. It is very much recorded that ladies experience numerous unexpected issues during their month-to-month cycle — squeezes, back and muscle torments, bulging, migraines, nausea, and others. These manifestations can expect more seriousness for ladies experiencing persistent conditions like polycystic ovary disorder (PCOS) and endometriosis.
While the experience of a period is diverse for various ladies and unquestionably varies month-to-month for a similar lady, period leave is believed to be a way to legitimise the actual cost of an excruciating month to month cycle, to be taken whenever required, a way to make value at the working environment. It is likewise referred to as a method of normalising discussions around the period.
I might want to comprehend this as a central connection between brilliantly various human bodies and social selves and the universe of work. Should work environments be moulded uniquely for a theoretical and one-size-fits-all private enterprise, or would it be a good idea for them to be formed remembering the outstanding efficiency and solace of different human bodies and selves?
This is a discussion that we have been having since the nineteenth century. The debate has been raised with regards to ladies, however in any event, when it went to the fundamental freedom to rest; for an eight-hour workday; for quite a long time; for restroom breaks; for food breaks — every one of these is viewed as the time taken from the work time that the industrialist has purchased. I feel that work environments should be reshaped to recognise these social divisions, which will assist individuals with being more valuable.
Likewise, I am not in the least for the medicalising feminine cycle. I do not think this is about a clinical issue, about weakening agony. It is about our being diversely applicable around those occasions and having the option to benefit from those distinctively valuable occasions.