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Menstruators Should Be Allowed Menstruation Leaves, Period

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This post is a part of Periodपाठ, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with WSSCC to highlight the need for better menstrual hygiene management in India. Click here to find out more.

Should a menstruator get paid leaves? This common question has been surfacing after a decision made by Zomato recently. Although this is not the first time that an organisation is making a progressive decision such as this to justify the diversity of biological process. The Bihar government also has the provision of taking two period leaves per month since 1992. Though arguments have risen in both support and opposition of the decision, this article states what I’ve come to believe, after my experiences so far.

A safe space is incomplete without emotional being provided to a menstruator during periods.

Building A Safe Space

“I took a leave, mentioning the reason for suffering from period cramps. I was able to do that because I work in a space of menstrual hygiene and health (MHH) programme for the past 2.5 years. The organisation where I work are well aware of the subject. So there was little resistance for me to talk about menstruation openly.”

Now let’s think how many of us can openly share the fact that they are menstruating, although it’s a normal biological process. It is important to provide a space for people to openly talk about menstruation and remove the stigma of menstruation. A safe space is incomplete without emotional support being provided to a menstruator during periods. To maintain this space, it is required to create awareness and sensitisation on the subject for the people at the workplace.

It would be helpful to reduce stigmatisation of the subject and overcome arguments on employers becoming prejudiced against hiring women, or else women might start getting segregated during their menstrual cycles even in an urban setting. This will be negligible if one has adequate knowledge of the subject.

Women Are Not The Only Ones Who Menstruate 

It is important to understand that menstruation is not only part of the life of cis-gendered women, but also a normal biological process for others with uteruses too, aka non-binary and transgender persons. The focus here should be on the rights of menstruators in menstrual hygiene management.

Informed Choice 

Each individual is unique. Menstruators may experience different symptoms before or during their periods. It’s important to make informed choices and decisions according to what your body indicates. I want to share the experience from tribal Rajasthan where I have worked with community women, men and adolescents on the topic of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).

Context: Community Resource Person (CRP) and I were waiting for the community women to gather for our third meeting on awareness. They were finishing their work at a MGNREGA site. We noticed that Vimala (name changed), a 34-year-old menstruator, was lying down and had cornered herself from the working site for some time. We also noticed that a mate (a semi-skilled worker at MGNREGA site) was regularly asking Vimala to get back to work.

Vimala is the member of a self-help group (SHG) and motivates other women of her habitation and participates significantly in decision-making for the SHG members and her family. We went to Vimla and asked her what happened. Vimla said, “Didi, I got my period and I feel like I need rest. I was thinking of taking an off today, but couldn’t.” When CRP asked why she couldn’t take leave for a day, Vimla said, “Didi, mate will mark ‘mendo’ (local word of absent) and I will not get a wage for the day.” A day’s wage matters a lot to them.

Let’s emphasise on the situation of this menstruator who needs rest during ‘those days’ and has a limited source of income. Do you really think a menstruator taking a paid leave is a question mark on gender equality? If a woman takes leave, does she become weak or vulnerable? Or do you think the one who does not take leave during menstruation is strong? If so, then maternity leave should also be a question mark on gender equality, right? I have worked with women who have worked in office and on field even in their eighth month of pregnancy. They did it since their body allowed it. However, one cannot generalise this situation for all women due to biological diversities of each individual.

Everyone has different anatomies, let’s allow them to choose if they need period leaves or not.

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