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MENSTRUAL LEAVE A ‘MATTER OF RIGHT’ WITH LEGISLATIVE MANDATE A NECESSITY

INTRODUCTION

The blood which provides a woman with the privilege for the creation of life is the very blood that is looked down on with the feeling of disgust. Where the woman should embrace her womanhood by considering it as a godly power, which entitles her to incarnate life in her womb for 9 months, but society makes the experience difficult and dreadful by considering it as a taboo to be talked about. The society which considers its nation as a mother and worships different female deities ignorantly forgets the fact that they are engendered from the very blood which they consider as impure. Menstruation is vaginal bleeding experienced by every woman from the stage of menarche to menopause usually once every month. It is the phase when a woman’s body prepares for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, the uterus, or womb, sheds its lining and menstrual blood is released through the vagina. The menstrual blood consists partly of blood and tissue from inside the uterus.[1] As stated by Judy Grahn, “Menstrual blood is the only blood, which is not traumatically induced, yet in the modern society is the most hidden blood, the one which is rarely spoken about, except privately by women.[2]

With the privileges come costs, so is menstruation. In early 2016, John Guillebaud, a professor of reproductive health at University College London (ULC), stated that research has shown period pain could be almost as “bad or painful as having a heart attack.”[3] Women experience excruciating pain, which in medical terms is termed Dysmenorrhea.[4] To provide assistance or lessen their hardship, the proposal for menstrual relief benefits should be made mandatory in the interest of women in India and can be looked at as a valuable stance that can be taken upon for the betterment of women. Granting of menstrual relief benefit should be made compulsory irrespective of the type of job considered like a public or private, or whether it be white, blue, golden or pink-collar or any another representation of collar job, while its avail can be made optional as per the needs and requirement of a woman. Grant of two days off at the start of a menstrual cycle is a step towards creating a workplace a liberal community and gender-sensitive which addresses the genuine problems of its employees. During menstruation, a woman experiences various mood swings, period cramps, or rise and fall of hormones which debilitates the normal productivity and functioning of the woman thus it becomes necessary to address this issue and provide a healthy and comfortable environment to work in.

Steps taken by various government and private organizations

In January 2018, Lok Sabha MP Ninong Ering from Arunachal Pradesh proposed a private members’ bill – the Menstruation Benefit Bill 2017. The bill aimed to provide women working in both the public and private sectors two days of paid menstrual leave each month. The bill also looks to provide better rest facilities for women at their workplace during menstruation, unfortunately, the bill was not passed.[5] Menstrual relief benefits can be brought up as an option of one to two days off or as an option to work from home at the start of the menstrual cycle. This proposal should not be considered exceptional as girls’ schools in Kerala had granted its students menstrual leave since 1912 and Bihar has had special leave for women for two days since 1992 called, ‘Special Casual Leave’. So, it should not be considered a path-breaking step. This should also not be looked upon as another factor to discriminate men and women in the hiring process while taking consideration of a specific leave to be granted as a mandate.[6] Certain Indian companies grant “special leave” to female employees like Digital Media Start-up Culture Machine Media Pvt. Ltd, Indian food delivery company Zomato, Horses Stable News, etc. Employers consider it as a “matter of right” which they provide to women who work with them with a supportive work environment and considerate work policies. [7]

Menstruation is a natural process and not a choice to which women are entitled, thus menstrual leaves should be granted as a “matter of right” while considering it as a matter of right it should not be labelled as a legitimate and rational reason to consider that women are not equal to men, as while legitimizing this we are inherently adhering to the patriarchal notion that a woman is born to bear the pain and torture which is inflicted upon her. In a civilized society, no woman should be required to prove her competence and equality with men at the cost of her well-being or find ways to control and hide a medical condition to avoid being labelled as unstable.

Provision in THE constitution

The right to equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution which ensures, equality and equal protection, and prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex and providing equality of opportunity to all citizens in matters relating to employment. As stated Under article 15(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children inherently justifies that if the state directs to formulate such menstrual relief benefit for women, then men should not contend that they are being deprived of their very right to equality as it is merely assistance which is being provided by the state to improve the working conditions for women on a true whole.[8] The rationale behind that menstrual relief benefit does not infringe the right to equality enshrined under Article 14 of the Indian constitution as it legitimizes basic conditions of the article. This discrimination is based on intelligible differentia, i.e., discrimination on just, fair, and reasonable justification. This legislation would not be arbitrary as it does not stand ambiguous and has a rational ground to prove that this mandate just assists to mitigate the difficulty of women in times of menstruation. It also has a rational object sought to achieve which implies the object of law is intra vires as with the sole objective to lessen the misery of women in times of menstruation while not discriminating between men and women.[9]

Diverse work culture aspires to enhance work productivity, the menstrual relief benefit must not be limited to certain jobs while ignoring the women in armed forces, this provision should be focussed to provide benefit to each woman irrespective of their jobs they are in, like in armed forces, the authority should plan to refrain from authorizing women on periods for the first two days in combat forces and allotting them with different fieldwork to lessen their misery. This will enhance the diverseness, moreover, the government should recruit more women so that more women can fit in combat missions if a certain woman is not capable of in certain days of menstruation, this will promote the liberal culture and motivate them to work for their nation with more sensitivity.[10]

Conclusion

For the sake of blood which procreates life, one must consider it as a duty to provide a privilege to each woman to mitigate the very difficult and consider it as a “matter of right” which women should be entitled, and every man and state should adhere to provide such assistance with a matter of pride to our mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives.

Author(s) Name: Rishika Singh (Amity University, Lucknow)

References:

[1] Cleveland Clinic medical professional, ‘Normal Menstruation’ (25th August 2019) <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10132-normal-menstruation> accessed on 4 January 2022

[2] Judy Grahn, ‘All Blood Is Menstrual Blood’ (18th August 2005) <http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/wstudies/grahn/03preface.htm> accessed on 5 January 2022

[3] Josie Griffiths, ‘BLOODY HELL Period pains hurt just as much as having a heart attack, according to research’ (2nd June 2019) <www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/9205085/period-pains-hurt-as-much-heart-attack> accessed on 4 January 2022

[4] Allan Dong, ‘Dysmenorrhea’ (UK, 15th November 2021) <www.emedicine.medscape.com/article/253812-overview> accessed on 5 January 2022

[5] Chandrika Manjunath, ‘The Menstruation Benefit Bill Proposes Two Days Menstrual Leave. Does This Help Women?’ ( India, 1st February 2018) <https://feminisminindia.com/2018/02/01/menstruation-benefit-bill-2017/> accessed on 5 January 2022

[6] Kavita krishnan, ‘Period leave debate is a reminder that workplaces must provide for women’s needs’ (2017) <www.scroll.in/article/844732/period-leave-revival-of-debate-is-a-reminder-that-workplaces-must-provide-for-womens-needs> accessed on 3 January 2022

[7] Tanika Godbole, ‘India: Zomato’s ‘period leave’ sparks debate on gender, menstruation’ (New Delhi, 21st September 2020) <www.dw.com/en/zomato-spraks-menstruation-debate-in-india/a-55006001> accessed on 5 January 2022

[8] The Constitution of India 1950 art. 15(3)

[9] The Constitution of India 1950 art. 14

[10] Snehesh Alex Philip, ‘Women in combat roles: India can romanticise it but here’s why we are not ready yet’ The Print ( India, 14 February 2020) <https://theprint.in/opinion/brahmastra/women-in-combat-roles-india-can-romanticise-it-but-heres-why-we-are-not-ready-yet/365104/> accessed on 5 January 2022

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