Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Menstrual leave and the question of gender equality

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Menstruation

Mains level : Menstruation a biological process and the debate over the mandatory leaves

Menstrual

Context

  • On January 19, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced on social media that the state government will grant menstrual leave for female students in all state universities under the Department of Higher Education.

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Background

  • The announcement came shortly after the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) decided to provide menstrual leave to all its female students after a representation made by the students’ union.
  • Vijayan has described the government’s decision as part of its commitment to realising a gender-just society. The government’s claim should inaugurate a wider conversation.

Menstrual

What is Menstruation?

  • Menstruation, or period, is normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle.
  • It is a normal process for girls and women who have reached puberty.
  • Every month, girl or women’s body prepares for pregnancy.
  • If no pregnancy occurs, body gets rid of the lining in the uterus.
  • The menstrual blood is partly blood and partly tissue from inside the uterus.
  • The length of a period can be different for each person, but usually lasts for 3-7 days.

What is the idea behind the Menstrual leave?

  • Paid leaves: Menstrual leave is a Policy of allowing women to take paid leave from work or school during their menstrual period.
  • Allows to rest: This leave is specifically for the days when a woman is menstruating and is intended to allow her to rest and manage symptoms such as cramps and fatigue, which can be particularly severe for some women.
  • Reducing the stigma: The idea behind menstrual leave is to help reduce the stigma associated with menstruation and acknowledge that it is a normal and natural bodily process.

Did you know?

  • The menstrual cycle can be affected by external factors such as stress, changes in temperature and altitude, and even exposure to certain chemicals and toxins.
  • This can cause changes in the length of the cycle, the intensity of bleeding, and the severity of symptoms.
  • There is also a small percentage of women who experience menorrhagia, which is an excessive bleeding during menstruation. This can be caused by hormonal imbalances, fibroids, endometriosis, and other underlying medical conditions.

Menstrual

Debate over the mandatory Period leave

Advantages:

  • Acknowledging the pain and discomfort: Making period leave available to students and, going forward, to women in the workforce, perhaps would be an important step towards acknowledging and addressing the often-debilitating pain and discomfort that so many are often forced to work through.
  • Will help create workplaces more inclusive: Instituting period leave would help create workplaces and classrooms that are more inclusive and more accommodating.
  • Reducing the stigma associated with menstruation: By making menstrual leave official leaves can help to reduce the stigma associated with menstruation and acknowledge that it is a normal and natural bodily process.
  • Increase productivity: By allowing women to take time off during their menstrual period, they can return to work or school more refreshed and better able to focus on their responsibilities, which can lead to increased productivity.

Menstuation

Concerns:

  • Context within which such policy decisions are taken matters: In a traditional society like India, where menstruation remains a taboo topic, it is possible that a special period leave could become another excuse for discrimination.
  • The examples of similarly traditional societies like South Korea and Japan are not encouraging: Both countries have laws granting period leave, but recent surveys showed a decline in the number of women availing of it, citing the social stigma against menstruation.
  • Medicalising normal biological process: There is also the risk of medicalising a normal biological process, which could further entrench existing biases against women.
  • Mandatory leaves may hamper women hiring: There is a possibility that the perceived financial and productivity cost of mandatory period leaves could make employers even more reluctant to hire women.
  • Reinforcing gender stereotypes: Implementing menstrual leave could reinforce the stereotype that women are weaker and less capable than men, which could have negative consequences for women in the long term.

Conclusion

  • The ongoing conversation around menstrual leave and menstrual health is crucial and welcoming. It is also encouraging to see the governments are recognizing the importance of this issue. However, implementing menstrual leave as a legal requirement comes with its own set of challenges. It’s important for governments to navigate these challenges while ensuring that the ultimate goal of gender justice and equality is met.

Mains question

Q. What is Menstruation? Highlight the idea behind the period leave and analyze the the issue of mandatory period leaves.

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