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Ditch the leave, embrace the conversation period

Dynasties have evolved, advancements have galloped, yet the disparity still remains. Yes, the disparity that discriminates against women. Yes, the disparity that silently shouts women are physically weaker. Yes, the disparity that asks women to remove her uterus, when their stance differs on period paid leaves offered to women during her periods. Is this the […]

Dynasties have evolved, advancements have galloped, yet the disparity still remains. Yes, the disparity that discriminates against women. Yes, the disparity that silently shouts women are physically weaker. Yes, the disparity that asks women to remove her uterus, when their stance differs on period paid leaves offered to women during her periods. Is this the world we want to live in? A world that treats a woman differently for the sheer reason that she menstruates? It is hypocritical how we lead talks on women empowerment, even so, initiate policies that clip their wings. As young changemakers, and as the youth stakeholders of tomorrow, we potentially believe in the statement claimed by Smiti Irani, the Minister of Women and Child Development.
“Menstruation is not a handicap,” and “Why should a woman’s menstrual cycle be known to her employer?” The provoking statements and questions asked by the dignitary, institute a discussion essentially significant in shaping the future of independent women thriving for making a living. And that is the reason we believe that a natural phenomena experienced by all women around the world shouldn’t be the reason for them being treated differently because of a common uniqueness that they share – menstruation. The article aims to throw light on the perspective that women shouldn’t be given paid leaves during their periods.

‘Women are physically weaker’
To begin with, ostensibly, paid leave for menstruation seems like a compassionate step towards workplace equality. But under closer scrutiny, it reveals itself as a potential minefield of undivided consequences, threatening to trap women in a cycle of disadvantages, one that undermines their true empowerment. Firstly, granting paid leave solely for menstruation can inadvertently reinforce the perception of women as physically weaker or less capable in the workplace. Menstrual leave, even accompanied by awareness campaigns, risks solidifying the harmful caricature of women as the “weaker sex,” burdened by a natural biological function.

‘Recruiting men, a better choice’
Additionally, it could fuel discrimination against women during hiring or promotions, as employers might favour male candidates to avoid potential disruptions. In high-pressure environments, even occasional absences can have a vast effect, impacting crucial meetings, presentations, and deadlines.
While men can navigate these demands without raising eyebrows, women taking menstrual leave, however necessary, might be seen as unreliable or less dedicated. The reality existingly proclaims that as of 2020 a World Bank study outlined; women globally spend 20% less time than men on paid work due to unpaid domestic and care responsibilities. Introducing additional, gender-specific leave risks exacerbating this disparity, pushing women out of the workforce and into a cycle of economic dependence.

‘Menstruation talks are taboo’
The idea of paid leaves appears conspicuous. For it thrives to comfort the women during pain, while talking about the “cause of the pain” is a matter of uncomfort in Indian society, ironic right? It is time we come to terms with agreeing to disagree, because even today a significant majority of males are either completely unaware of menstruation, or either are unaware of the pain it causes.

Menstruation is still considered to be an embarrassment associated with evil spirits by many Indian individuals. And that is why, with period paid leaves being granted, a woman’s menstrual cycle will be of common knowledge to the counterparts, and the way that they perceive it will certainly vary thereby shepherding extensive discomfort to women while they are excavating through pain.

Nonetheless, period pain is subjective. Every woman has her own set of experiences during her menstrual cycle. It is essential for us to acknowledge the possibilities of bare minimum pain or the extreme severity of it. In majority of the cases though, period pain becomes manageable with medical aids henceforth, we believe that rather than providing paid menstrual leaves, women can be provided with the facilities required to brawl the pain. And the ulterior motive of stimulating a comforting and healthy period phase can be achieved via adapting a different approach.

The points that follow, further illuminate the same.
• It is widely essential for the key of communication to be endured. Let’s normalize menstrual conversation through workplace workshops, awareness campaigns or even extend support from medical facilities. Instead of shrouding periods in those secrecy murmurs, let’s open up a dialogue which can break down stigma and foster understanding and empathy. Building up workshops where colleagues learn and open up about menstrual myths to break the stigma and ensure to offer a sensitive environment.
• Workplaces should readily provide menstrual supplies. Having period products available in restrooms sends a powerful message of inclusivity. No one should be caught unprepared or forced to leave work due to lack of access.
• Designated “wellbeing rooms” offer a safe haven for managing discomfort. Equipped with comfortable furniture, heating pads, and pain medication, these rooms shall provide immediate respite during challenging moments. This empowers individuals to manage their symptoms discreetly and get back to work when they feel ready. This demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being and reinforces the message that menstrual health matters.
All in all, true empowerment in the workplace lies not in segregating women through special leaves, but in fostering an environment of inclusivity and equal opportunity. Let’s lend a hand in helping women brawl the pain, make the society realize that menstruation is not a shame, and let’s eradicate the blood stain from the parameter of women and men not being treated the same. These acts will patently bestow respect, and empowerment on women of the Indian society. And as rightly said “One can speak, while unity can convey” and for the women, Smriti Irani has spoken, it’s time we help her convey.

Sana Rathi and Simone Kothari are Surat based student activists.

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