The menstruation scene in India lies on the extremes. While urban women are moving towards sustainable products for menstrual hygiene, rural women are still fighting to access basic sanitary products. While rural women can’t even talk about periods openly, the urban women bear the brunt of listening to a remark like, “Oh, is it that time of the month?” Zero empathy. Full-fledged sexism. Sigh! We’re all tired of that, aren't we? Although it is true that a woman goes through pre-menstrual syndrome and has mood swings, it is derogatory for men, or anybody for that matter, to irk us with such remarks or use that to dismiss a woman for just being herself. Instead, shouldn’t we be validating the pain a bleeding gender goes through?
Recently, Zomato announced ‘Period Leave’ to its women employees. While it has stirred quite a debate, this initiative by Zomato, in my opinion, comes across as more progressive than discriminatory. Period Leave, if gets adapted by every organisation, will normalise menstruation which is otherwise a taboo topic in most parts of our country.
Nagendra, a working professional, says, “If ‘he’ is educated about these issues, ‘she’ will be comfortable.” He points out that Period Leave is the way towards normalising menstruation in our society. Abirami, other working professional echoes this thought - “Period Leave will create more empathy and sensitivity at workplaces!”
Well…I can’t agree more. Let’s take a look at the bright side of this brilliant move by Zomato.
We are finally talking about it!
Thanks to such a period leave policy, we are talking about menstruation openly. No more sssshhh-ing or shying away from a natural process that women and few other genders go through.
Validation of menstrual pain
This move will validate what a woman or any gender that bleeds goes through as part of their lives. Imagine being able to write a mail that reads, ‘I will be on period leave and therefore….’ without shame and stigma - something women are subjected to, too often. It is a big sigh of relief, especially, to those who experience menstrual disorders such as dysmenorrhea (extremely painful periods), PCOD (irregular periods).
Women can stop taking pain killers!
All the days - of taking pain killers and showing up at work just because you cannot lose your leave over something “that every woman experiences, come on, suck it up” - will be gone. Women will be able to take the day off and rest themselves.
No more name-calling
Women, when on periods, are remarked as ‘attention-seekers’ if they seek comfort or express pain at the workplace. With the normalisation of a period leave, such name-calling will take a backseat.
Sick leaves get saved
There are times when a woman refuses to take sick leave when she goes through period pain so that she can save it up for whenever necessary. Now, she has a separate category and won’t have to worry about the usurping of sick leaves.
Equity is achieved
There are debates about how women talk about equality and now they’re asking for special treatment as period leave. Well, a period of leave is no special treatment and women are not asking for equality but equity. No better example than this policy to explain the difference!
You must be nodding to all of this and still wondering about the discrimination that period leave could bring in. What if recruiters think twice before hiring a woman because she would go “missing” every month during her periods? What if women and genders who bleed will get lesser opportunities because of their absence? What if I will continue to face shame because of being open about my period leave?
I wouldn’t negate the possibility of the aforementioned. However, I think either of the two might happen eventually - companies may realise how women-friendly this policy is, welcome the move, and have their women workforce feel cared for - or - companies may refrain from hiring women, lose their diversity and inclusivity quotient, go backwards in the corporate scene, and be perceived as toxic/regressive places to work in. Because we women have learnt it over a period of time, to not settle.
We will continue to have agency over our bodies without shame and stigma.