It’s 2018 and any discussion involving menstruation is still considered a taboo in our society. Women have been suffering a lot of discrimination in various ways due to their natural uncontrollable menstrual cycle. This topic is generally pushed out of public conversation since many people consider women’s menstrual cycle as impious and a shortcoming of females. This silence is nullifying the efforts towards generating awareness about the menstrual cycle and is encouraging the misplaced emotion of embarrassment among women.
Menstruation Benefit Bill
Women in India are not provided with adequate facilities and resources to maintain menstrual hygiene. Moreover, they are subjected to humiliation and discrimination during menstruation. To combat this troubling situation, a private member’s bill namely Menstruation Benefit Bill was tabled in Parliament during the winter session by Mr. Ninong Ering, a Lok Sabha member from Arunachal East. According to the bill tabled in the parliament, women working in public and private sector will be entitled to two days of paid leaves every month during menstruation. This bill is intended to provide relief to working women during their periods and provide them with adequate facilities at the workplace. This bill will help women to balance their health requirements and work responsibilities.
Arguments for implementation
Our society has always been ignorant of this issue and this discussion is long overdue. Until we accept the differences and show due regard to women, we won’t arrive at any harmonious solution. Introduction of this bill should be considered as a step in the right direction as this will, at the very least, initiate discussions at different forums about the issue.
Most women face difficulties during periods and that’s why they should be provided with a flexible working environment during their periods. This bill can act as a catalyst in this direction. The number of paid leaves can be argued if at all two days of paid leave might seem too much. Unarguably, a day of rest on the onset of menstruation will do greater good for women and employer alike as it would lead to more satisfied and productive employees.
Arguments against implementation
This bill has also met with opposing arguments. One of them states that this policy will undermine women’s long-standing battle to discourage the notion that women are weak due to their monthly cycle. It is more apparent than ever that there is a critical need to discourage such notions and discriminating stereotypes prevailing in our society. However, at the same time, we need to be logical and holistic in our approach towards problem-solving. Policies should not be driven emotionally; rather, a proper situational analysis is required for policies to be framed accordingly. It might be true that introduction of such a bill could encourage the notion that women are weaker due to their natural cycle, but opposing the bill is not going to help women in any way either. Instead, we need to ask for proper educational programs from the government so that any misconception is eradicated.
Many times people consider this bill as promulgating gender inequality, which is a flawed argument. Providing women with better working environment and conditions is only an indication of good acumen. Men and women have different requirements and we need to analyze our workplace policies in accordance with the same so that we can come up with provisions that respect these differences.
Hope is the last thing to lose
History tells us that there are very few private member’s bills passed by the parliament since independence and it is likely that this bill will suffer the same fate. However, we should use this bill as an opportunity to discuss menstruation at all possible forums including the parliament. This will not only create awareness but also educate many people about the menstrual cycle and propagate the efforts towards breaking the stigma revolving around periods.
Bihar has already set a good precedent for the policy. Female teachers in Bihar are entitled to two days of special leave every month since 1992. Taking Bihar as an example, we can discuss the policy further and ponder over the specifications required. While deciding policies, we need to differentiate between what is necessary and what is conditional. The introduction of such policies is a necessity and therefore, must be discussed further.
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