A CRITICAL ANALYSIS ONTHE MENSTRUATION BENEFITS BILL, 2017
Author: Vydurya Selvi. B
The long journey of industrialization has always faced the gender inequality issue. Various laws are enacted but are only makeshifts. Though it is headway to healthy development, there should be a fix. ‘Menstruation’ in women, commonly called as the ‘periods’ istaboo in our country. Women are celebrated as a symbol of holiness in temples, whereas they are dejected from the society during their periods.It is not considered a topic to be discussed in public; it can only be spoken within four walls. In 2017, a Private Member’s Bill tabled in the Parliament, which set up a stage for discussing this issue.
Menstruation is the vaginal bleeding of women once in every month. It does not occur only when a woman is pregnant or when she has attained menopause. During menstruation, women experience dizziness, nausea, sleeplessness and some women have intolerable pain which makes them unable to do their daily chores. Some pre-menstrual symptoms include mood swings, tiredness and even lack of concentration. It is difficult for women to work in those days.
Most of the women will be able to function normally, although their body is weak. Some may not be able to work tolerating the pain. To promote the work participation of women, menstrual leave policies have been enacted in many employments. Menstrual leave is a type of leave granted with pay or without pay from a woman’s employment during her menstruation. Women can take off on any two days of the month, also there is no need for justification for doing so. This policy has been widely praised and also criticized. Supporters see it to be ahealthy initiative, whereas the critics stated it as sexism or criticism of women’s work power.
It is to be noted that an all-girls school in Kerala have been giving the girls studying there with menstrual leave since 1912. In Bihar, there is a special leave for women for two days since 1992 called the ‘Special Causal Leave’.In the recent past, many Indian companies has started promoting providing menstrual leave for women. In some Asian countries, their labour codes allowed menstrual leave of two days. In the United Kingdom, Coexist, a Bristol community interest firm introduced the ‘period policy’ for the first time. Nike also had certain policies and supported the eradication of menstrual policy immensely. Zomato, with nearly 35% women employees brought up paid menstrual leave policy.
The Menstruation Benefits Bill, 2017
Bill No. 249 of 2017, ‘The Menstruation Benefits Bill’ was enacted by Parliament in its sixty-eighth year of the Republic of India. The bill was passed by Shri Ninong Ering, Member of Parliament from the State of Arunachal Pradesh. The Bill provides the following allowances to women,
It seeks to provide women in both public and private sector employment, four days of paid menstrual leave every month and also better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation. Government School girls above Class VIII are also included in availing the same benefit under Section 4 of the Act.
It also provides overtime allowance for those women who opt to work on their menstrual days.
Every woman shall take rest for thirty minutes twice a day during the four days of her menstruation.
The establishment is obliged to let the women employees know all these benefits.
Any person in an establishment, who denies, obstructs or threatens to discontinue employment for taking menstrual leave shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than one month which may extend to three months and a fine of a minimum of ten thousand rupees which may extend to fifty thousand rupees.
Menstrual leave dates back to World War II in the 19th century. Menstrual leave is a medical necessity.Menstruation is a biological process where the walls of the uterus are torn and come along with blood through the vagina. The pain involved is not small. Not all women will be able to bear the pain. Some may have pre-menstrual stress, cramps, fever and nausea, while some women don’t and will able to operate normally. Researches about reproductive health at University College London, says cramping can be ‘as bad as a heart attack’, on women who undergo such pain will say the same. If the discomfort is not comforted and the woman works continuously, her health deteriorates and would lead to severe health problems such as endometriosis and PCODs.
Menstrual leave is compared with maternity leave, the main difference being the pain during delivery is muchenormous than the pain during menstruation. Women also tend to be unproductive or often make mistakes during menstruation. The two days off can ease their pain and will help them be fruitful.
The initiation of paid menstrual leave should be appreciated and accepted. Only because of ‘Menstruation’, a ‘Girl’ becomes a ‘Woman’ in our ‘society’. Hence, the biological imbalance in women should be nurtured with menstrual leave and be treated as a privilege than being called a taboo.
Many sexists and feminists treat menstrual leave as a discriminatory measure. By giving menstrual leave, women are portrayed as weaker than men. Menstrual leave denies the concept of equality of men and women at work. Men don’t get off days in a month. Not only gender discrimination, but unfair treatment in the workplace is also prevalent. Women who take off have a lesser chance of promotion, increments and work participation in important facets of their employment. Job opportunities for women are narrowed and demotion also happens.
Another important point to be noted is that not all women become ill during menstruation. There are some who can be relaxed andwork tirelessly during their periods also. But if the law mandates them to take off, they should. Woman needs rest shall be allowed to take off and the rest shall be allowed to work. One aspect that should be checked in this bill is, that the bill should not increase the bias and unfair treatment happening against women in the workplace. Rather it should help women grow stronger.
The lawmakers have drafted the bill to provide certain facilities to female employees during menstruation at work and for matters connected with. The objective behind the law is to bring more females towards employment and advancement. Women should be nurtured and also be treated equally and fairly in the work environment.
Apart from the menstruation bill, there some other ways that will help the working woman in her periods. They are: provision of work from home option or reduction of leave days from four to one or two, which encourages the woman to work and take rest simultaneously. Implementing these steps can give an effective outcome. Many women are afraidof their periods and don’t work. The government can reduce the taxes on sanitary napkins, which can encourage women to use them and stay hygienically and comfortable at work. There should also be separate restrooms and areas for disposal of waste in every institution.When necessities are fulfilled, women can come out happily and help serve the society in a better way.
 The Menstruation Benefits Bill 2017 - http://18.104.22.168/billstexts/lsbilltexts/asintroduced/2651LS%20As%20In.pdf
 Menstruation Benefits Bill - https://www.iasparliament.com/current-affairs/menstruation-benefits-bill
Need for menstrual leave policy in India - https://feminisminindia.com/2019/09/20/need-menstrual-leave-policy-india/