The Government Girls School in Tripunithura had allowed ‘period leave’ in 1912, but is no longer doing so.

While we debate period leave a Kerala school had granted it over a century agoRepresentational image
news Menstruation Monday, August 21, 2017 - 15:40

While debates have been raging on about menstrual leave, with many companies across the country taking the initiative to grant it to its women employees, records show that a girls school in Kerala had extended ‘period leave’ to its students more than a century ago. 

The Government Girls School in Tripunithura, located in the erstwhile princely state of Cochin, had in 1912 allowed students to take 'period leave' during the time of their annual examination and permitted them to write it later.

According to a book ‘Kerala in the 19th Century’, written by historian P Bhaskaranunni, it was the head-teacher who had initiated the request to grant leave to women teachers and students, noticing that they were normally absent during the time. 

The book is considered to be an authentic study on various aspects of life in Kerala. It has narrations on the lifestyle, ritual practices, caste and communities, education, family system, temples about the state, to mention a few.

At present, however, the school does not extend this facility anymore.  

"I am not aware that the leave was granted in the past. At present we function like any other government school in the state. The school doesn’t have any records to show that the menstrual leave existed. It was something that was there before independence, during the reign of kings. In the available records in the school I haven’t found anything in that regard,” Shaji Lopus headmaster of the school told TNM.

“Currently we can function only as per the rules of the state government. Also we should verify the authenticity of history books to ensure that no vested interests were incorporated in them,” she added. The book was published by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi, run by the government, in 1988. 

According to the book, 300 days of attendance was mandatory for students to appear for the annual  examination, as per the then education laws. 

“Tests were conducted regularly and it was necessary for students to appear for the tests. But, it had become an issue in Tripunithura girls school where students and women teachers would not come during the time of menstruation," it said.

School headmaster VP Vishwanatha Iyer then approached the school inspector in Thrissur and put the issue before his notice on January 19, 1912. Subsequently a favourable decisions was taken by the authorities in the next five days in this regard.

"The Education Director has issued an order on January 24 stating that those students who were unable to write annual exams during the time of menstruation should be permitted to write the same on another occasion," the reports quotes the book.

This report points out that bringing up period leave during a time when the subject was taboo was unusual for the time. 

A century later Kerala has once again returned to the issue of menstrual leave with the Congress legislator KS Sabarinathan urging the state government to consider granting menstrual leave to its employees during the ongoing session in Kerala Assembly. 

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had assured that the government would formulate a common stand on granting menstrual leave to women employees after considering various aspects of the issue.

"Women suffer from various physical difficulties during the time of menstruation. Now, debates on period leave are coming up. Serious debates should happen on the matter considering menstruation as a biological process," he had said.

Prior to this, the topic held the nation’s attention with Mathrubhumi News, Malayalam television channel and two Mumbai-based companies introducing leave on the first day of period to its employees.