Many women I have known have left office or taken a day off due to terrible menstrual cramps and faked it as a headache or said "I am not feeling well." Talking about a subject like menstruation or period is not just a taboo in our country but people often judge you when you talk about it openly, even when they call themselves 'modern'. Thinking hard about ways to take leave on the first day of the period has been a part of every women's life. But the question arises-- Is it a good move to grant extra leaves to women for period pain?
Period leaves have been a topic of discussion for more than a week now after food-delivery service Zomato announced up to 10 days of 'period leaves' for women and transgender employees. Zomato founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal stated, "There shouldn't be any shame or stigma attached to applying for a period leave. You should feel free to tell people on internal groups, or emails that you are on your period leave for the day."
The move was expected to be lauded from all corners as menstruation is something biological and not what a woman chooses. It did receive an applaud from many, especially women, who appreciated the firm for taking care of their women employees. However, the move also raised questions among another sections of society who believed that it will directly impact the discussion of gender equality in a negative way.
There is no denying that women face discrimination and are forced to suffer menstrual pain in silence in the workplace or lose pay by staying home. Period leave can be a blessing for them as they get what they deserve. Women are considered polluted, even toxic during those five days of the month and by talking about it openly, surely makes it more acceptable among the people. Since ages, women have been a victim of misconceptions and taboo surrounding menstruation which has acted as a barrier in their growth, especially at a workplace. They have never been considered equal and shown pity for their suffering during 'those' days.
Zomato has tried to dismantle wider outdated workplace policies with its latest move by trying to give women employees a 'fair' chance to excel. But is it fair? Many feminists out there believe that, while menstruation can be very painful, women never make it as an excuse for a failed attempt or something which makes them inferior. Menstrual cycle symptoms can include pelvic and lower back pain, headaches, fatigue and mood swings caused by a fluctuation in hormonal levels. But it never acts as a reason for them to be looked down at.
Many have contended that the policy doesn't give women a fair chance but acts as a hindrance in their battle to gender equality. Many believe that expanding such a policy only means lowered salaries for women and justifying hiring bias against women. It sets the wrong precedence as it will only put more work pressure on the male employees, resulting in gender discrimination yet again.
Zomato isn’t the first Indian company to introduce period leave. In 2017, a Mumbai based digital company had also announced it will offer a "First Day of Period Leave." Also, the state of Bihar has had granted two extra days of casual leave for government employees to take days off for periods since 1992. Countries like Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Zambia also have forms of menstrual leave policies.
Period Leaves is not a new thing in the world. It has been there in a country like India for many years, where it is no less than a taboo. But the question is, has anything changed? Have women felt more empowered by taking a day off due to period pain? Or has it become a reason for them to losing on big projects, or not getting an equal opportunity? Food for thought, right?
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