The “First Day of Period Leave” grants paid leave to female employees on the first day of menstruation. Will this move break the general taboo around menstruation or will it reinforce sexism in the working space?
Brinda Karat, a CPM leader told NDTV, “The employer should be legally bound to give menstrual leave over and above legal rights of all employees.” For those who have been living under a rock, menstruation is a biological process in females which comes with its dose of various physical impediments, like cramps, headache, fatigue, acne and indigestion disabling potential and concentration. Taking this into consideration, a few organisations in India made legal provisions for a menstrual leave on the first day of menstruation and the employee has the agency to decide whether she wants it or not.
This strategy was met by many debates that pondered the practicality of the rules and focused on the various particularities. This policy would in a way help the female employee gain social recognition as a “worker” and it would enable the female employees to openly address their bodily functions. It would also eliminate the social stigma around menstruation and further contributing to the normalization of the discussion of female bodily functions. Hopefully, it would someday also bring an end to the shaming and mocking of natural processes in women.
However, counter arguments were made saying that this policy would reinforce sexism in the working space. Employers would be compelled to hire less female employees and it would make it harder for women to find jobs with each interview bearing the question “Do you have painful menstruations?” It would further result in a breach of their privacy, especially for the ones who are not comfortable with addressing it. Furthermore, not all women experience excruciating pain during their periods, so there could always be a chance of misusing the policy. It would eventually result in the calling women “inefficient” workers.
In the Indian context, a menstruating woman have always been a marginalised member of the society and disregarded to the point where they die in menstrual huts. Sanitary pads are taxed as a luxury. Women are taught to stay shut about their natural body processes. In the face of all this victimization, a leave could be both a salvation and a damnation. The feasibility of the #FOP strategy needs to be thoroughly discussed before imposing it, keeping in mind that even though each woman menstruates differently from the other, none the less it is a vexation to all.
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