On March 8th Sunday, celebrated as International Women’s Day, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted about the need for a menstrual leave policy for women in public and private workspaces. The tweet was met with backlash with most women expressing disagreement saying this could become an excuse for organisations to hire less women.
In his tweet, Tharoor urged Twitterati to sign a petition for “gender inclusive workplaces in India”. It stated, “Do you support menstrual leave for women at public and private workplaces?”
Do you support Menstrual Leave For Women at Public& Private Workplaces? Join this initiative of @ProfCong by signing this Petition on https://t.co/qC1xqkEyev. Let's create gender inclusive workplaces in India. Sign the Petition: https://t.co/mw6iWjuBmT #WomensDay2020— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 8, 2020
Arguing against Tharoor’s petition, journalist Barkha Dutt tweeted:
NO @ShashiTharoor menstrual leave ghettoises women, becomes one more excuse to close certain professional doors on women and treats the monthly period as a grand event instead of routine biology. Here's a piece I wrote in @washingtonpost on thi this https://t.co/OKqDslqpuZ https://t.co/f6N6sDS8Lw— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) March 8, 2020
Barkha, who has been a vocal critic of the menstrual leave policy, added the link of an opinion piece that she had penned for The Washington Post, in which she had expressed her disapproval of menstrual leave.
Barkha was joined by Congress National spokesperson Sharmishtha Mukherjee and national media panellist Shama Mohamed. Mukherjee also tweeted the link to the opinion piece written by Barkha and called the idea absurd. Shama quashed the need of menstrual leaves, saying “Why should women have menstrual leave? We are strong enough to work, run, exercise & do whatever a man does at his workplace while we have our menstrual cycle!”
Why should women have Menstrual leave? We are strong enough to work , run , exercise & do whatever a man does at his workplace while we have our menstrual cycle! https://t.co/fjLGH3XuGe— Shama Mohamed (@drshamamohd) March 8, 2020
Journalist Sana Khan also stated that that menstrual leaves are not required and called it a psychological barrier.
I had started taking 'days off' for this. It then became a psychological barrier.— Sana Khan (@Sanakhan_m) March 8, 2020
I was even branded as 'someone who takes off every month'.
Cited (by a sr editor) in a company that was interested in hiring me.
Had to change that. Was easy.
We don't need menstrual leaves, sir.
Many users posted about how the move could be a disadvantage for women as it may hinder their chances of being recruited.
3-5 days leave every month? Absurd! People will stop recruiting women. Moreover, menstruation is not a health 'issue' but unbearable menstrual cramps is a 'problem' that needs medical intervention. Healthy periods are not supposed to create any hindrance to day-to-day activities.— Aishwarya Palagummi (@APalagummi) March 8, 2020
this will only motivate employers not to hire women and hire men instead who will be available atleast 5 days a week.— Abhi Bali (@Abhi_bali_) March 8, 2020
The petition titled ‘Make laws and policy declaring menstrual leave for women’ demands that “all employed women in India should have an option to take ‘work from home’ or ‘leave with pay’ for two days every month, by private and public employers.”
It also cites Article 42 of the Indian Constitution which states that “the State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.”
In 2018, Ninong Ering, a Member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, had tabled the Menstruation Benefit Bill which sought to provide two days of paid menstrual leaves and resting facilities at the workplace.
Menstrual leave, a policy that allows women going through extreme period pains to take one or two days off, exists in many countries. But it has been widely criticised as counterproductive, often reinforcing negative stereotypes of female workers.
(Edited by Athira Nair)