Smt. Maneka Gandhi
Hon’ble Minister of Women and Child Development
Subject: Implementation of Menstrual Benefit Bill
I write to congratulate you on initiatives and efforts of the Government to promote gender equality, either through the Maternity Benefit Bill or even increasing the thesis submission period by 2 years and also accounting for 240 days of maternity leave for doctoral students.
These initiatives by the Government talk immensely of the need to recognize the voices and concerns of women. Similarly, it is vital that, severity of the discomfort women experience during menstruation is acknowledged, and also reflected through the formation of a policy that allows women to, at their discretion, take a leave during that period, without being discriminated. I have introduced a Bill in Parliament to grant every woman the right to take two days of paid leave every month. In addition, the Bill also mandates better rest facilities for women at the workplace.
While this leave has been debated over in India, countries abroad have identified its need and have successfully implemented it. While Indonesia implemented the two-day paid menstrual leave in 1948, Japan implemented the same in 1947. Resonating with this gender specific provision, South Korea implemented monthly one day of paid menstrual leave. As an amendment to its Act of Gender Equality in Employment, Taiwan provided for three-days paid menstrual leave in a year along with thirty days of half paid sick leave in 2013. While implementing this leave might seem a challenge in our context, I would urge you to consider the fact that menstrual leave was implemented in countries with a similar social environment as India.
Despite the inspiring success in approaching the tailored needs of women, there is a dire need to consider implementation of a policy that recognizes the biological experience unique to women and the discomfort felt at workplaces. The two-day, paid menstrual leave would enable women to rest and return to work after the pain has subsided.
While implementing menstrual leave, three major aspects of the issue needs to be borne in mind.
Firstly, implementation of menstrual leave would not only recognize the biological constitution of women but would also acknowledge the gender diversity in the workforce and their unique needs. The initial menstrual pain, fatigue and discomfort experienced by women might hamper their productivity. Subsequently, a two-day paid menstrual leave would allow them to rest, thus making them productive when they resume work. Thus a clear disjunction between sick leave and menstrual leave would assist women employees to avail leave for the most appropriate need. Menstruation is not a sickness and thus, should not compel women to consider utilizing the sick leave.
Secondly, the menstrual leave should be implemented at the national level, so as to prevent discrimination against the menstrual leave amongst states and organizations. The leaves in organizations are encompassed in the Shops and Establishment Act, where each state determines the majority of number of leaves. Considering that women universally experience the phenomena of menstruation, the leave, also, should be uniform amongst states, organizations and levels of hierarchy. All organizations, thereby, would be compelled to offer a mandated two day paid leave to all their women employees.
Thirdly, it is imperative to regard the menstrual leave as paid leave. If the decision of implementing the leave as paid or unpaid is left to the organization, they might account it as unpaid. In such a scenario, women would refrain from availing this leave and might lead to consumption of the sick leave instead, thereby defeating the purpose of the policy.
The Maternity Benefit Bill is a pioneer in recognizing and addressing one of the key challenges faced by women in our modern economy. I sincerely hope that this government recognize menstrual pain and discomfort as another challenge faced by working women in this country.
Once again, I appreciate and thank you for the approach taken to empower women in our country and hope for the Menstrual Benefit Bill to be considered.