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The Menstrual Benefit Bill, 2017 was first introduced by Shri Ninong Ering, Member of Parliament, as a private member’s bill before the Lok Sabha with a motive to facilitate women with certain menstrual benefits at workplaces or in institutions of education. The same bill was introduced again this year on the first day of the Budget Session of 2022 before the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly which was dismissed by the Legislative Assembly as it deemed it to be an ‘unclean’ topic.
NEED FOR THE BILL
The need for the implementation of this act arises out of the complexity of the Female biological system and the amount of pain they have to go through during menstruation. As per 2017 University College London Research, it was revealed that period pain can be compared to the pain one experiences during a heart attack. This pain also reduces the productivity of female employees and hinder their work. The grant of Menstrual Leave can be deemed to act in the benefit of both, the female employees and employers.
There has been recorded frequent demands regarding implementation of amendments in Labour Laws in the direction of bringing in facilities for the female employees. Further, the concept of Menstrual Leave has been in existence from the time of World War II and it has also already been implemented in countries like Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan due to their far sightedness. A bill has also been proposed by Italy regarding paid menstrual leave. An example of menstrual leave was also seen in India, an all-girls school in Kerala, from the year 1912, grants menstrual leave to students.
Looking at the severeness in the concept of Menstruation and the rise in demand for leave, this bill is needed, in order to facilitate women in workplaces and educational institutions.
- To Everyestablishment:
- Any establishment belonging to the government
- Establishments for persons employed for an exhibition of equestrian, acrobatic and other performances
- To every shopor establishment:
- Within the meaning of any law
- Where ten or more persons employed
- To every man
- Self employed
- Working in the unorganized sector with less than 10 employees
- Working as an employee in any establishment registered under appropriate Government
- Studying in or above Class VIII in any school recognized by appropriate Government
- Paid leave for a period of 4 days for Female Employees
- Leave from school in case of Female Students
- Overtime allowance for Female employees in case they opt for working during menstruation
- 30 minutes of rest, twice a day for 4 days in case the Female employee opts to work during her menstruation.
- A Facility of creche either separately or along with common facilities, for an establishment with more than 50 employees, in the prescribed distance.
RIGHT TO SELF-PERCEPTION
The right of self-perception of menstruation is vested in the female employees by this bill. It means that a woman can herself perceive the arrival of the menstrual cycle and take leave accordingly.
Imprisonment of a term not less than one-month upto the period of three months fine not less than ten thousand rupees which may be extended upto fifty thousand rupees shall be given to any person who:
- Denies leave to a Female employee during menstruation
- Obstructs entitlement to menstrual leave for female employees
- Denies our discontinues benefits arising out of the bill for the female employees.
In case of any redressals regarding the employer or the Menstrual policies applicable at the respective workplace, the female employee can direct their grievances to the Internal Complaints Committee constituted by the under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 or similar Grievance Redressal Committees as formed within the establishment to cater to matters relating to the Menstrual Leave.
Just like every coin has two sides, apart from the pros of enactment of this bill, there are some objections raised against it too. These objections are as follows:
- The first objection raised has its basis on inclusivity, keeping in mind that women, due to the enactment of the bill, will be absent from the office for 4 days in a month might lead them to skip important meetings and will ultimately hamper their involvement in the daily workings and the decision making.
- Second, the women of today look for equal opportunities at work place, and not to be looked down upon due to biological differences. The enactment of bills like these might create a gender bias in the workplace and might also lead employers to prefer men over women for jobs.
- Not to forget, ‘Menstruation’ has been a major taboo in the Indian society for years and we are still fighting against it. Implementing bills like these will only facilitate the thought that ‘Menstruation is a Sickness/Disease’ as women require leaves and will end up creating an even bigger taboo around it.
- As stated earlier, the female biological system is complex and so is the concept of ‘Menstrual Pain’. Different women have different experiences during their Periods, some suffer extreme pain and some experience next to none. Hence, this concept is not universal and one woman’s experience cannot speak for all.
- Lastly, several suggestions from people against the implementation of this bill can be recorded. Some say that women going through menstruation can be granted work from home for a period of 1-2 days, if their job description allows, and if not, they can be granted a leave for a period of 1 day and not 4. Further, people suggest that government should decrease the amount of taxes charged on menstrual products like Sanitary Pads and should also make them more accessible.
Even though the Constitutions remains silent on the fact, the Apex Court, in several cases, has interpreted that ‘Right to Health’ remains a fundamental right under the Article 21 of the Constitution. Menstruation being a matter of health shall be taken seriously as it can impact the overall health and well-being of a woman and since women are the ones who go through menstruation that too not voluntarily, menstrual leave can be said to be of great importance for females. The question that arises before passing of the bill is pragmatic in nature.
Passing of the bill might lead to opposite implications than that were intended by the bill. The bill will, in a way, provide relief to women suffering from Menstrual Pain, but will on the other hand, create problems and controversies for women as discussed above. The suggestions recorded by the opposition will also prove to be of no use as increasing the accessibility of Sanitary Pads will not solve the core issue of women suffering pain during menstruation.
Therefore, there has to be found a common ground for theories in support of and against the concept of menstrual leave in order to focus on the bigger picture that is relieving the women suffering from Menstrual Pain at work.
Author: Sanchita Arora, a BBA.LLB Student at SLS, Nagpur, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email firstname.lastname@example.org or at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.