While period leaves have been a long-debated topic across the world for quite some time now, the discussion found its impetus in India with the ‘Menstruation Benefit Bill’ tabled by Ninong Ering, a Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal Pradesh in 2018. Seeking a 2-day menstrual leave provision for women in both private and public sectors, the proposed bill raised the need for destigmatizing periods. Following the same, a handful of companies in India did introduce period leaves for their women employees.
Indian food delivery giant Zomato has now announced a 10-day period leave for its employees, becoming one of the first high-profile organisations in India to make this move. “There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma attached to applying for a period leave. You should feel free to tell people on internal groups, or emails that you are on your period leave for the day,” Zomato’s chief executive, Deepinder Goyal, wrote in an email to the staff members on Saturday.
Further addressing the men in his email, Goyal wrote "A note for men–our female colleagues expressing that they are on their period leave shouldn’t be uncomfortable for us. This is a part of life, and while we don’t fully understand what women go through, we need to trust them when they say they need to rest this out. I know that menstrual cramps are very painful for a lot of women–and we have to support them through it if we want to build a truly collaborative culture at Zomato."
The move is definitely going to be a welcome one for employees suffering from conditions like dysmenorrhea (which causes pain during menstruation), PCOD, and PCOS. Counting in the transgender workforce as part of the policy change is also a commendable move in terms of inclusivity. A lot of transmen menstruate but are always relegated to oblivion when conversations about periods are made on policy levels.
Now, while the move is being appreciated by many, it has also been receiving flak on social media as many raise the 'equality vs privilege' debate. People have been also raising concerns about the impact that these period leaves might have on the company's hiring policy by creating a bias against women employees. Here's what Twitterati have to say:
The move has been lauded by many as people believe that it will help to catalyse a conversation on periods and thus take away the shame and stigma from the entire discourse:
A faction of Twitterati is of the belief that the move will further widen the gender divide in organisations that offer period leave by making managers prefer men over women.
Meanwhile, men seem to have started a parallel campaign on social media asking Zomato to give the same number of leaves to men, so as to 'support' their menstruating partners. Talk about hampering the discourse!
People have also been suggesting alternatives to these period leaves by raising ideas like "work from home" or permission to take "half-day leaves" for menstruating employees as a way of helping them out while keeping it unbiased for everyone:
As women employees from Zomato get the luxury of staying home and taking time for themselves as they menstruate, people have asked them to go ahead and do the same for their maids as well. To think about it, this is actually just an exercise in privilege if they take period leaves while their maids have to make it the work every single day of their period cycle.
As Twitterati debate over the potency of this period leave policy, there has been a lot of ill-informed dissent on social media as well. From asking why just 10 days (since a woman's cycle lasts 5-7 days) to questioning the need for policy change for transgender employees, they have been raising all kinds of ludicrous questions.
Well, perhaps this is exactly the reason why we need changes on a policy level when it comes to menstruation. The stigma around menstruation is so deep that most people fail to realise that while the period cycle might last more than a couple of days, most of the time, it is only the initial days that are difficult.
Also, people continue to confuse intersex individuals with trans folks as they raise questions on the need for transgender employees needing the period leave. Well, if not anything else, hope the move helps to open a conversation about periods and making people better informed on the topic.
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