Smriti Irani opposes paid menstrual leave: Do women suffering painful symptoms need it? | Health and Wellness News

Smriti Irani opposes paid menstrual leave: Do women suffering painful symptoms need it? | Health and Wellness News
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Smriti Irani opposes paid menstrual leave: Do women suffering painful symptoms need it? | Health and Wellness News

Should women have the option to take leaves when they are menstruating? Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani opposed a policy for paid menstrual leaves in the Parliament, adding that it may lead to women in the workforce being discriminated against.

In response to a question on whether the government was taking any measures to make it compulsory for employers to provide menstrual leave, she said: “As a menstruating woman, menstruation and the menstruation cycle are not a handicap; it’s a natural part of women’s life journey…” But should menstrual leaves be seen as an umbrella term, considering some women suffering from endometriosis or dysmenorrhoea go through painful and physically paralysing experiences?

DO WOMEN NEED MENSTRUAL LEAVES?

Says Dr Surbhi Singh, gynaecologist and president of Sacchi Saheli that works to promote menstrual awareness, “The experience of menstruation is different for every woman. While many may be able to go on about their work with some rest or medicines, there are those who have extreme symptoms that sometimes even require hospitalisation. This is the reason why developing a uniform policy on it may be difficult. However, a woman who needs to take a leave should be able to do so without judgement or pay cut.”

She went on to say that workplaces must make reasonable accommodation for women. “Giving birth is also a natural process but many women die due to post-partum haemorrhage. So the government is now promoting hospital-based delivery. Similarly, an accommodation has to be made for menstruation. And, yes, a few may misuse such leaves but all laws and guidelines in our country are based on the principle that most people benefit from it.”

WHAT ARE THE MOST SEVERE SYMPTOMS OF MENSTRUATION?

The most common complaints during menstruation are pain, heavy bleeding, lack of concentration due to hormones, bloating that can make working uncomfortable, sleep problems, vomiting and fever.

Festive offer

Some women, especially those who suffer from conditions such as endometriosis, can experience extreme pain and fainting spells. Endometriosis is a condition where tissues from the uterine lining are found and bleed elsewhere in the abdomen. Others experience the debilitating premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) — a more severe form of PMS — that can cause extreme mood shifts.

While Dr Pratima Mittal, head of the department of gynaecology at Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, said she did not believe in specific menstrual leave, she added that women with conditions such as endometriosis should be allowed to take medical leaves.

WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT POLICY SAY?

A recently released draft menstrual policy by the government, on the other hand, is quite progressive, stating that work from home or support leaves should be available to women so that there is no discrimination against them. “It is important to emphasise that such arrangements should be available to all, to prevent perpetuating stigmas or assumptions about productivity based on menstrual cycles,” the policy reads. The policy has also been made inclusive, acknowledging menstruation in “trans and the non-binary population.” The government has further been working on a scheme such as the Jan Aushadhi selling very affordable Rs 1 pads.

Of course, Irani clarified that her comment reflected her personal viewpoint. “Given today women are opting for more and more economic opportunities, I will just put my personal view on this as I’m not the officiating ministry. We should not propose issues where women are in some way denied an equal opportunity just because somebody who does not menstruate has a particular viewpoint towards menstruation,” said Irani in response to the question posed by the Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Kumar Jha.

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