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Period leave controversy should not invalidate experiences, say activists
Earlier this month, Zomato announced a policy that offers women employees 10 extra leaves in the year to accommodate for their period.
This policy paved way to debates, with women coming out on their live experiences and received backlash on social media. Menstrual educators and doctors say that the physical capabilities are different for women and some of them require it because of unbearable pain and excess bleeding. “There are women who have menstruationrelated complications and get excess pain and uncontrolled bleeding. Some people go through a lot of pain and it is not practical for them to work on such days. There are other hormonal changes and imbalances too,” said Dr Premalatha, gynaecologist, Fortis Malar Hospital. Menstrual educators say that period leave should not be just a privilege announced by few organisations but should be a part of a policy by the government that is adequately implemented.
Menstrual educator Kavya Menon says that we are already late to have this discussion and this should have become a norm by now. “Organisation announces periods leaves, but their employees unable to avail them as their productivity is questioned. The ovulation time is a very active period for women and they can take up twice or thrice the work they do when they are on their periods, their work has to be planned and delegated accordingly,” she said. However, many voices on Twitter have spoken out against this policy. Some have asked why this could not be a sick leave, which many women’s rights activists such as Kirthi Jayakumar have spoken out against. “Menstruating is not a disease. Calling it so goes against the way our bodies work as nature has ordained it. If a person falls sick, then they would not be able to take the leave for it,” she said.
One of the other arguments against the system was that it might cause discrimination in the workplace, due to the stigma against menstruation. “This will cause discrimination, but this is a systemic issue, not the fault of people who menstruate. This change is also forcing companies to look at their anti-discriminatory policies and their enforcement,” said Namithaa Jayasankar, sexual and reproductive health and LGBTQIA activist. There are more discussions to be had on period leaves, according to women’s rights activist Archanaa Sekar, but those cannot be had when the subject itself is being invalidated. “The feminist movement works parallel on many fronts, so to brush this off as an elite experience is not taking into account that this is a lived experience, and the power of these policies trickling down,” she said.