Should menstrual leaves be issued in educational institutions?
The government of Kerala in India has recently been making headlines for its announcement to undertake work on introducing menstrual leaves for educational institutions in the state. The announcement came following a decision by the authority at Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) to reduce attendance requirement by two percent (down from 75 to 73) for its female students.
Menstruation, one of the most normal bodily functions, has been branded as taboo since the beginning of time. Along with cramps and spasms, the debilitating pain is accompanied by other unpleasant symptoms like nausea, discomfort, impatience, and an overall sensation of malaise. Additionally, it's worth noting that periods can change over time and with age, and many women experience fluctuation in their menstrual cycles from month to month.
People are different, and so are their bodies. Not all women have the same experience during periods. While some women experience seemingly painless periods, for others, just standing up and going about with their day can be akin to a hefty sucker punch.
Yet, there is the concern that some individuals may abuse the privilege of menstrual leaves were they to be introduced, which in turn may perpetuate sexist beliefs and attitudes. In a country where menstruation is heavily stigmatised, a gendered leave might propagate gendered stereotypes and have a detrimental effect on the wage difference.
It is important to note that other countries have already implemented "Period Leave" policies. Japan, for example, has had a "Period Leave" policy in place since 1947 as a part of the Labour Standard Act, which states that an employee can't be made to work if she requests a leave of absence due to menstrual complications.
However, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan found that only 0.9 percent of menstruators requested period leave. The survey found the main reasons for this to be the absence of period leave in employment regulations, low usage among co-workers, and discomfort in discussing menstruation with male managers. These findings highlight the need for clear policies and open communication to increase the use of period leaves.
Most educational institutions in Bangladesh have rigorous attendance policies, and many do not consider menstruation to be an acceptable excuse for missing classes. Women have been indoctrinated to put up with the discomfort associated with their periods, so they don't think it is okay to skip work or school unless there is a serious medical emergency.
By gaining an understanding of the current situation and barriers surrounding period leave, steps can be taken to address the social stigma attached to menstruation. It is necessary to start implementing this in schools, especially since menstruation is often thought to be dirty and embarrassing due to the lack of proper sex education. Introducing menstrual leaves in schools may encourage young girls to gain knowledge and understanding of how to properly manage and navigate through their periods more comfortably.
The topic of period leave has sparked both arguments for and against it. Although implementing this will not fully bridge the equality gap, it is worth a shot to normalise and re-evaluate the stigma surrounding this topic.
Farnaz Fawad Hasan is a disintegrating pool noodle wanting to stay afloat. Reach her at [email protected]