Ninong Ering, a Congress MP and Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, had moved a private members’ bill – ‘the Menstruation Benefit Bill, 2017’.
Under this bill, Women working in the public and private sectors will get two days of paid menstrual leave every month. This also seeks to provide better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation. The purpose behind the bill is to amend the Labour Laws in order to provide better working facilities to the female employees. This will further help women to balance their health requirement and work responsibilities.
Arguments for Implementation: -
Menstruation is still considered a taboo in the Indian society. Specially women in schools, at workplace or even at home hesitate in speaking about period pain. It is found that only less than 18 percent of Indian women use sanitary pads. Mostly which amount to rural girls which are devoid of menstrual hygiene.
It is also pertinent to note that maternity is a choice while menstruation is an inescapable monthly biological process that is painful. Majority of women face some form of discomfort and pain during periods where for some women it is intense.
But protective measures under various labour laws like the Factories Act, 1948, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 have increased the participation of women and thus this bill can benefit in the same way.
It may seem a new debatable issue but India too has had one provision like this. The state of Bihar has had special leave for teachers for two days since 1992 (while it is not explicitly mentioned it as the menstruation leave).
It has been found by the World Economic Forum reports that women tend to work longer hours as compared to male counterparts. They multitask and manage work and home at the same time. However, work-life balance remains the primary challenge that women face due to unequal pay, less career opportunities, harassment, managing family and an uneasy environment to work in.
Some of the private companies in India have individually introduced the policy of paid menstrual leave for their female employees. For e.g. Nike, Adidas, Gozoop.
Arguments against implementation: -
It is argued that such bill will augment the gender gap in India. Many of the women believe that this could further the bias against them at workplace and lead to unfair treatments in the form of hiring bias, lesser pays, slower promotions than already given.
Will employers be reluctant to hire or promote women knowing they will be unavailable in the workplace for those days every month? it may reinforce orthodox thinking.
It is further argued that the concept of menstrual leave goes against the constitutional right to equality. Article 15(1) of the Constitution of India prohibits the state from discriminating any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex.
Dr Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, Delhi, told India Legal: “Bill has raised with a good intention. But there is need for a much bigger debate for this leave. Menstruation should not be treated as a disability. It should not be treated as illness. Making it mandatory would lead to a lot of time loss for companies and the governments.
It might be true that introduction of such a bill could encourage the impression that women are weaker due to their natural cycle, but opposing the bill is not equally good.
It does not lead to gender inequality as women with better working environment and conditions leads to better efficiency. Men and women have different requirements and there is a need to analyze workplace policies in accordance with the same so that there is no preferential treatment to any of them.
Other options available can be – (1) Women can have an option to work-from-home every month under the policy or (2) leave should be left at the discretion of the employees whether she want to avail the menstrual leave or not.
Most of the female employees are of the opinion that instead of mandated leaves, there should be better working facilities to female employees. The companies should provide intermediate breaks during periods on working days and facilities for rest.
Written By Ms. Karuna Choudhary, 2nd Year Law Student, Campus Law Centre, Delhi University law intern at S. Bhambri and Associates (Advocates), Delhi