Menstrual Leave: Do we really want gender equality?
Every woman is familiar with a phrase- "Take Paracetamol and use a hot water bottle". It indicates the time of the month when the woman is menstruating. But when Paracetamol and hot water bottles can't distract a woman from the painful discomfort on their period, then what happened?
In Bangladesh, according to section 115,116,117,118 of the Labor Act 2006 deals with Casual leave, Sick leave, Annual leave, and festival leave. In section 45-50 of the Labor Act 2006 also described the maternity leave. By these laws, workers are allowed to statuary sick pay when they are sick. They can stay at home with minor sicknesses like a cold and still receive their salary. But when the woman workers experienced this painful time of the month, then which rights they are entitled to for the leave?
Unfortunately, it is true that, even in this age, when women are suffering period pain in the time of the month they are not considered ill enough for sick pay because it is taken as a taboo matter in the workplace. For that reason, many women continue their work during their period ignoring their ill health. They keep their daily activities in their workplace because most women feeling too embarrassed to talk about their periods with their employers because they fear judgment from their peers or they cannot afford to lose money.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, when women are sufferers from extreme period pain that is considered "Dysmenorrhea" as a clinical termed. Nearly one in five women has pain so immense that it intervenes with daily activities.
Research by the British Medical Journal evaluated 32,748 women, aged 15 to 45, to examine the consequence of their period on their work. 26,438 of those questioned reported going to work while feeling ill and felt lower levels of productivity. Only 4,514 women, around 17per cent, reported missing work due to period-related pain. This emphasizes the need for menstrual leave as the number of women who missed work due to their period was much lower than the number of women who responded to feeling ill at work during menstruation.
But considering this matter many countries have agreed with this. The state of New York in July 2016, made history by passing a law that guarantees that girls and women in public schools, shelters, and correctional facilities have access to menstrual products. But 40 states of the United States from that 15 states that however had a "tampon tax" have moved to do away with it. Regarding menstrual leave, many Asian countries already have legislation that offers this leave.
According to article 68 of the Labor Standards law 1947 in their Japan has implemented provisions on unpaid menstrual leave. Here it says- "when a woman for whom work during menstrual periods would be especially difficult has requested leave, the employer shall not employ such women on days of the menstrual period."
According to the Labor Act, 1948 Indonesian women are guaranteed two days menstrual leave.
Article 71 of the Korea Labor Standards Law states that female employees are entitled to one-day menstrual leave per month. It came into effect in 2001. South Korea not only grants one day of menstrual leave but also incorporates the provision of additional pay in case they avoid that leave.
In 2013, Taiwan amended the Act of Gender Equality in Employment to introduce three days of menstrual leave every month. In 2015, women in Zambia are legally allowed to take one day off due to their menstrual leave policy. If refused, the employee can sue her employer. In 2018, the Menstruation Benefit Bill was tabled in the Indian Parliament. The Indian state of Bihar has already been offering its women workers two 'Special Casual Leave(s)' since 1992.
Anhui, Shanxi, and Hebei are the three provinces of China that have preceded such leave. Many corporations also introduced menstrual leave in their policy. Nike has incorporated menstrual leave into their Code of Conduct in 2007 requiring the partners to become a signatory to their Memorandum of Understanding. Also, two companies in India, "Culture Machine and Gonzoop" officially allow women to take menstrual leave.
Where these companies allow women to take menstrual leave, some companies claim that women menstruate every month, and for that, it is not a reasonable policy to pay women menstrual leave. Moreover, not all women suffer from severe pain and therefore such a system may be taken advantage of, just like statuary sick pay can be.
Arguments in favor of menstrual leave come from a place of gender equality and the promotion of women's rights. Women's workplaces, just like men's, ranging from multinational companies to garment factories. Many of these organizations, especially in developing countries, lack sufficient sanitation and clean toilets. In these cases, menstruating women and girls are more likely to take leave or drop out. The provision of clean and safe working situations has also been related to more women joining the workforce, a trend that will positively contribute to the economy of any country. So, it's time for the lawmakers to introduce menstrual leave in the law and the companies have to come forward to accept it. If this is not adopted soon then the main question will remain, "Does we really want gender equality?"