Period leave debate: A welcome move or setting a regressive example?
Ladies, is it ‘that’ time of the month when you experience excruciating cramps and can’t focus at work but feel shy to talk about it? To help break the stigma around menstruation, a popular food aggregator, Zomato has announced up to 10 days of ‘period leave’ in a year for its female and transgender employees. The step has sparked a debate, as some argue it’s a much-needed move that will help normalise menstruation, while others believe that it may portray women in weak light.
“It is an organisation’s responsibility to make the work environment comfortable for all employees. Menstruation is a natural phenomenon for females and we have to break the stigma associated with it. It requires a change in mindset and people have to be educated and counselled towards this objective”, says Vijay Sethi, chief information officer, chief human resources officer; head corporate social responsibility, Hero MotoCorp.
Another HR professional, Sonam Gupta, who works at a ‘millennial’ organisation and is a consultant to startups, feels that there’s a taboo that needs to be addressed. However, she says, “I understand the pain happens but it does not stop you from doing work.”
Period leaves need to be considered by companies from the perspective of equity, gender equality and general well-being of their employees, believes Nitisha Pandey, action network fellow at Youth Ki Awaaz. Pandey, whose current workplace, Indian School of Development Management, has a policy around periods, says, “Almost everyone without a uterus has an opinion on how menstrual leaves will affect productivity. Should I be punished for a normal function of my body? Am I not giving in to the patriarchal norms when I’ve to ‘perform’ while in pain?”
There is a need to have a dialogue feels social worker Anurag Chauhan of the WASH (Women, Sanitation, Hygiene) project by NGO Humans for Humanity. He says, “Women should have the choice whether or not to take such a leave. However, implementation is difficult... There needs to be a dialogue about the issue with the policymakers.”
In a television commercial featuring actor Radhika Apte, a personal hygiene product brand dared to show red colour on the pad instead of the usual representational blue. Kartik Johari, vice president of the same brand, Nobel Hygiene, argues, “Period leaves may unintentionally cause more harm than good, by legitimising the idea that women are inherently more delicate or weaker than men, and thus consequently require ‘special’ remedies catering only to women. In a cut-throat hiring atmosphere, one cannot ignore the biases that hiring managers to hold; and this may nudge them to hire more men, as they won’t require ‘monthly’ breaks or interventions.”
Does the nature of work add to the discomfort during menstruation? Dr Veena Aggarwal, gynaecologist, MD and Medical Advisor, Medtalks.in, says, “In a study, emotional aspects have effected the period pain. It is being found that prevalence of signs and symptoms of dysmenorrhea is significantly higher in people who are sedentary and associated with a desk job. Slight physical activity is recommended to reduce the severity of pain.” However, Aggarwal feels that with the concept of period leave, we are defeating the purpose of female equality. “Women should have the option to work from home or take a sick leave, not a paid leave,” she adds.
Interact with author/sanchita_kalra.