Voices Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30
Monalisa Das| The News Minute | May 29, 2014 | 04:07 pm IST Should paid menstrual leave be included in the policy of organisations? This is the topic of a trending debate in the past few days on the social media in the West. Pregnancy leave we've heard of, and accepted. But for us Indians, a menstrual leave might sound like an alien concept. Those questioning gender equality might avoid it asking “next you’ll be demanding paid leaves for bad hair days, is it”? Before you shrug it off with utter disregard, you might be interested to know that such a rule does exist in a few Asian countries. The concept of paid menstrual leave or PML is said to have emerged in Japan in the early 20th century, and was made into a law in 1947. According to Article 68 of the Labour Standards Law in Japan "When a woman for whom work during menstrual periods would be especially difficult has requested leave, the employer shall not employ such woman on days of the menstrual period." In Indonesia, women can take two days of menstrual leave in a month, under the Labour Act of 1948. Korea goes an extra mile zooming ahead past the rest. Not only are women entitled to take leaves during their periods, those who don’t take those leaves are paid additionally under Article 71 of the Labour Standards Law. In Taiwan, women are entitled to three paid menstruation leaves per year according to the Act of Gender Equality in Employment. In 2007, sports giant Nike, included menstrual leave in their code of conduct, applicable in their offices across the globe. Although this might seem too little to have any considerable impact worldwide, it surely has created a stir in the Americas. In a report carried by The Atlantic, the growing emphasis towards gender equality in the world is highlighted in relation to whether women should be entitled to menstrual leave or not. Is menstrual leave really needed? Or is it more of a discriminatory measure? Does it confirm the idea that women are inherently weak in nature? These are questions to which there are no direct answers. As expected, this theory has a lot of critics, including women. In a conversation initiated by Huffington Post Live, Rebecca Watson, founder of Skepchick.org presents a very interesting argument on the topic. She voices her objection to the whole premise of menstruation leaves. “Just by asking the question should women get paid menstruation leaves, it biases the listener into saying “Oh, of course not. You are talking about special treatment.” Should men get paid time off if they were kicked in the testicles, she further asks. It all depends from person to person, and the organisation should be able to make a wise and correct decision on its own. Women all over the world experience period-related complications; some undergo severe pain and extreme bleeding or have periods that run into weeks, while others only feel the slightest of discomfort. Many question the productivity of a female employee while suffering from such conditions; others worry about the abuse of such a power by women if it were to be implemented. Very few seem to care about the health concerns a woman might face. A recent Forbes report also points out the possibility of an increase in the gender pay gap as an outcome of such a step. Since there are no accurate parameters to measure that, it might be a while before the necessity of such a ‘leave’ has more takers. However, the point that it’s high time a serious discussion on menstrual leaves takes place cannot be discounted. More so, it is not country specific.

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