Is menstrual leave an impediment to gender equality

              Is menstrual leave an impediment to gender equality

  • Chandanasriya.


The word period, menses, time of the month, and date all these showcase an inexplainable stigma towards a natural act of menstruating. A tapestry is woven around the concept and created a sense of inhibition towards it. Any discourse about it in and around is brushed under the carpet, be it a private family discussion or a public community at large. This led to negligence in the matters of menstrual leave and menstrual equity. The concept of menstrual leave is taking different stances in the view of feminism and gender equality. The question that also pops up now is that whether a man is equal to women? Women biologically are very different to man in view of the reproductive health. Women suffer from ovarian cysts, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea. The occurrence of periods causes immense pain and unbearable emotive depressions. So, in that regard if considered every coin has two sides, and let us explore it. 


The menstrual leave policy, was first tabled in Lok Sabha as a private member bill by Mr. Minong Ering. In the same year menstruation benefit bill was also introduced. Later on, in 2023 a public interest litigation is filed before the supreme court and the court ordered that the matter can be looked into by the concerned ministry and asked to the petitioner to submit it to the ministry of women and child development. The facts state that the Bihar, was the first state to awards 2 days of consecutive leave for women in the year 1992. And there was also a fact which stated that Kerala in 1912 had menstrual leaves in Government schools. Now to make it a legislation the questions that has to be addressed are, how is menstrual leave different from the sick leave? How is awarding a legal paid leave to women exceptionally not amounting to gender discrimination and causing inequality? 

Menstrual leave policy 2023

As an updated leave policy, the organizations’ women employees can avail up to 12 period leaves in a year. Each month, 1 period leave will be credited and women can avail either 1 full day or 2 half-day leaves each month. The need of menstrual leave, “the journal of health sciences in 2015 reported that a staggering 70.2% had dysmenorrhea [period cramps and pain in the pelvis]23% of them experience pain for 2-3 days and the rest for 1-1.5 days”. Women are subjected to terrible pain and should be given a paid holiday. Here arises the critique of equality. “if there is requirement of equality, why is there a demand for the special treatment” but the point to understand is that there is a formal equality and substantial equality. Over the period of years in the traditional patriarchal society the men always had a greater say in order to compensate their inability to bear children. Women are efficient in multitasking and in emotional labor and care in spite of their monthly struggle. 

To answer the critique on pseudo feminism, the rational minds answers- Eco feminism tells us that women and nature are associated not in passivity but in creativity and in maintenance of life. Investing in women and engaging to empower women shall lead to sustainability. 

Gender equality:

  • A special leave can help women maintain good health at comfort, which in turn helps the state in maintaining health factors and contributing to the human development index. 
  • The point to also not is that, the lack of resources and sanitation required during the period. The public offices and work spaces do necessarily lack the hygienic toilets and adequate water supply.  
  •  !  For sure there is the other side of the debate which states that, due to the granting of such paid leave can have our women at disadvantage, as they lose out on their professional opportunities.  This is also to be addressed because in the globalized world women can make up to the one-day leisure that is offered to them in the rest of the days. And this applies to both the corporate and public sectors [teachers, bank employees, judges, etc] 
  • ! will that amount for, over sensitization of the issue? The answer to this is a clear NO, as Indian society at large still has a taboo on the concept of menstruating in itself and this progress towards it sensitizes the issue, but certainly not over do it. 

Gender equality in Indian Scenario: 

Indian society though empathetic and care oriented sometimes very conservative and way too unrealistically sentimental which not only causes a restriction on the girl or a woman’s development but also a tapestry that shall be normalized in the name of pain and suffering. The women in rural and marginalized societies are accustomed to the disgrace and discrimination. On one side where society is legally advancing itself to the live in relationships, on the other side the minor girls are still being the subjects of child marriage and early pregnancies. All this doesn’t seem to be normal and the measures taken towards these should improvise and create a lasting impact on the society to respect women and value procreation and not to see it with disgrace. This takes the view to the menstrual equity. 

Menstrual equity:  

Menstrual equity refers to equal and comprehensive access to menstrual hygiene products, and to the right o education about reproductive health. Which can not only reduce the barriers to care and reduces the stigma surrounding it. This also helps the management of menstruation safely and with dignity. The Indian society, being very conservative and not considering a biological process and maltreating it should stop. Period poverty is a lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities, waste management or a combination of these. The reports show that, the estimated 500 million people lack resources to manage their menstruation, if this is the global case. The Indian scenarios can be imagined and this has to improve through a collective effort. This concept should be way more normalized, and not the pain and suffering. India being a culturally a high valued nation, has made its mark in respecting women and the celebrating them. The dilution of cultures and practices have made the elite part of society a better one, but this had an adverse impact on the backward classes of the society. Still the menstrual equity should be stretched out. 

Debate in India on Menstrual leave: Menstrual Hygiene Policy 

It was debated on a point that, the Menstruation and a menstrual cycle is not a handicap, and very few women suffer from the immense and unbearable pain, whereas the most of the part is manageable with the intake of proper medications. And in this era where woman opt and look for more and more economic opportunities. On the other hand, the advocates argued that though the workspaces can be engendered and be inclusive the paid leaves can also be misused. Supreme court also felt that this could discourage employers from hiring women. The other point of contention is that when a woman is asked to inform about her menstruation while taking a leave. This shall again become a ground for discrimination and harassment especially in the Indian work sites [govt or pvt]. Which is a complete opposite to attain gender equality and neutralizing the stigma around woman. To mandate a national policy and implement it across all the segments of the country, may amount to increase in the barriers  to discriminate against women,   the point was stressed on the single woman, or a widow who is in menstruating age the amount of harassment the woman is subjected and that mental agony can have disturbed impact on her productivity. 


I opine that, though menstruation is not a disease or sickness, it can still me a medical condition. In case of any intense pain and pressure on the woman, it can be because of any emotional, psychological or a genetic inclination. In such cases law provides the person with medical leave and mandating a paid leave in the name of menstruation can not only be misused but also be a barrier to compete equally with the counter parts and still woman can achieve gender equality.  A paid medical leave can suffice the need of the woman unless the issue is extraordinary. In such circumstances medical care and doctors supervision shall be necessary and mandating a paid leave in the name of menstruation can itself be an impediment to achieve  gender neutrality. 

Author: Chandanasriya.k, a Student of Damodaram Sanjeevaya National Law University

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