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Menstruation Benefits Bill

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June 09, 2018

What is the issue?

  • Menstruation Benefits Bill was tabled as a private member bill in the Parliament earlier in the year.
  • It is imperative to look at the significance of the provisions, for a gender sensitive labour policy.

What is the bill on?

  • It seeks to provide working women two days of paid menstrual leave every month.
  • It applies to women working in both public and private sectors.
  • The Bill also seeks to provide better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation.
  • It includes providing women the flexibility to take time off, and with options like working from home.
  • The benefits are also extended to female students of Class VIII and above in government recognised schools.

Is this a new idea?

  • Paid menstrual leave has been in practice since long time back.
  • Bihar has had special leave for women for two days since 1992.
  • Although, it is not explicitly referred to as the menstruation leave.
  • Women can decide which two days of the month they would like to take off.
  • Also, they do not have to provide any justification for doing so.
  • In the recent past, some private companies in India have started offering menstrual leave.
  • Several countries such as Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, etc also have menstrual leave provisions.

What are the concerns with it?

  • It would prejudice employers against hiring women and lead to their alienation at work.
  • Most women are capable of functioning at full capacity even during their periods.
  • So, for the handful of women who do suffer unbearable symptoms, the existing sick leave option is adequate.
  • Menstrual leave policies might discriminate against men.
  • This is because women would get additional days off every year.
  • However, the counter arguments are largely a reflection of continuing age old gender biases.

Why is menstrual leave significant?

  • Menstruation is a perfectly natural biological process, not a disease or a disability.
  • However, it can range from a slightly discomforting to a severely debilitating experience for women.
  • Nearly 20% of women suffer from uncomfortable symptoms.
  • These may include cramps, nausea, fever and weakness during their periods.
  • These are debilitating enough to hamper their daily activities.
  • Some women also experience reduced emotional control and decreased concentration.
  • Over 25 million women suffer from endometriosis.
  • This is a chronic condition in which period pain is so bad that women nearly pass out from it.
  • It is true that periods are weakening only for some women.
  • But the numbers are not insignificant to avoid a policy decision.

What is the way forward?

  • The Bill takes gender equity discourse forward in a constructive and balanced manner.
  • Implementation - Policy formulation would be meaningful only if backed by enforcement measures.
  • Evidently, women are continued to be laid off for demanding maternity entitlements.
  • Participation - Menstrual leave policies must be introduced alongside measures to increase workforce participation of women.
  • Worryingly, the female workforce participation rate in the country has declined from 36% in 2005-06 to 24% in 2015-16.
  • Measures aimed at reversing this decline are crucial.
  • Workplace - Efforts at making workplaces more inclusive and gender sensitive is essential.
  • Separate toilets for men and women with facilities for disposal of sanitary napkins should be ensured.
  • The Parliament should take up the Bill on menstrual leave and hold a discussion on it soon.

 

Source: BusinessLine

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