Every woman has the menstrual cycle, also known as the period, as a result of biological and reproductive programming after reaching puberty. A woman acquires pain, annoyance, etc. in such a position. Menstrual leave originated and gained popularity as a result of Zomato, a meal delivery service that offered paid monthly leaves to female employees who were experiencing menstruation.
In the nation as a whole, menstruation has grown to be a contentious but mostly ignored topic. Menstruation-related issues are kept private between people, and despite this serious problem, women who are of menstrual age still lack access to adequate sanitary facilities and medical care.
Research has shown that the pain a woman experiences throughout her menstrual cycle is comparable to that of a heart attack. Employee productivity will be negatively impacted by such an event, which can In essence, menstrual leave refers to paid leave for female employees or students during their menstrual cycle.

What is dysmenorrhea?

This intense agony that women experience throughout their periods is also referred to as a painful period. Also referred to as menstruation cramps, they typically happen as the uterus contracts in order to remove its lining. About 20% of women experience dysmenorrhea. Such things might happen either before or during the menstrual cycle. Pain levels range from mild to severe, sometimes to the point that a woman’s daily activities are interfered with.

What is menstrual leave?

One way to describe it is as a menstrual cycle leave granted to female employees or students. When a woman has pain, discomfort, cramps, etc. throughout her menstrual cycle, she may choose to take a leave of absence.
The Indian Constitution’s Article 21 guarantees the right to life and individual freedom. It was decided in Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh that the phrase “life” in the “right to life” refers to more than only animal existence.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India received a plea asking for paid menstruation leaves for female employees and students who are going through their menstrual cycle. Additionally, the request sought to introduce the Women’s Sexual Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill, 2018, which called for government agencies to give women free sanitary pads at their locations.
After every minister refused to examine the matter, calling it an “unclean topic” that should not be discussed, the bill was defeated in the Legislative Assembly itself.
The Supreme Court denied the plea as well, arguing that it may force businesses to fire female employees or that employers would prefer to hire male workers over female workers, and that permitting such leaves might also affect the productivity of the company. Other problems can also be faced by female employees and students as a whole.

Currently, no act or bill expressly provides for and defines menstruation and menstrual leave in India.

Numerous governments and businesses have acknowledged menstrual leaves and have either directly or indirectly included provisions pertaining to menstruation. Kerala has made menstruation leaves somewhat permissible by permitting female students to take their yearly exams later if they fall during their menstrual cycle. In a similar vein, the state of Bihar has permitted female students to take two consecutive breaks in addition to the Vikas Mission, which will develop numerous programs related to menstruation. Menstrual leave was introduced for the first time by Zomato, an app that delivers meals.
Menstrual leave and law:

In Anushree VR vs. Government NCT of Delhi (2015),The High Court of Delhi held that menstrual cramps and pain are valid reasons for taking leave from the workplace, and no female shall be discriminated against due to menstruation in the workplace. Although menstrual leave was not recognized in this case, taking leave because of the menstrual cycle was held to be a valid reason for any female employee.
The Indian Constitution’sArticle 15(3)holds that the state may establish particular provisions for women and children. Menstruation is a disorder that only affects women; hence, the Indian Constitution gives the state the unique authority to enact laws pertaining to it. Furthermore, equality before the law is guaranteed by Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which permits fair classification according to specific classes, castes, genders, faiths, etc.

The Indian Constitution’s Article 47 mandates that the state provide for the nutritional needs and health standards of both men and women, possibly including menstruation leave.Similarly, menstruation is recognized as a legitimate condition for which arrangements must be made at work under Article 42 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees reasonable and humane working conditions. In light of this, women may be permitted to take menstruation leaves under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.

Recently Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpurheld a milestone by allowing female students to take leaves during the menstrual cycle as per a circular on September 29. If a female student has missed any classes because of her menstruation, she might receive payment. The leave office must approve such a leave. Following a request by the Students Bar Association in 2022-2023 for the same, action was taken.

As of right now, there is no such law or regulation that offers any protection or privilege regarding menstruation or the menstrual cycle. Moreover, the matter was deemed unclean and unhealthy and should not have been brought up in parliament. However, some laws and bills may specifically provide for menstrual leave or give other relief to women during their periods.
Such acts may include:

Factories Act 1948: Employees who work 240 days or longer are entitled to leave with wages under Section 79 of the Act. Women are entitled to specific leave during their menstrual cycles. Such regulations must be implemented for women in order to promote a safe and healthy atmosphere. The Factories Act’s Section 75(b) further states that unfit employees may not be allowed to return to work until they are well. For women, menstruation can be a serious health concern.

The Employees State Insurance Act specifically provides security benefits, and for such benefits, menstruation may be a valid reason.

Companies Act: Schedule (vii) Part (iii) of the Companies Act guides that corporate social responsibility shall empower women, and in order to empower them, they shall also be given leaves when they are unwell and cannot be productive, like menstruation, and shall also provide sanitary pads and other sanitary facilities to women.

Scenario: Menstrual Leave and Menstrual Hygiene Outside India

Numerous nations have acknowledged that menstruation is a sensitive condition faced by women and have taken action to compensate for it. Women’s hygiene and health will benefit from this. Additionally, it has enhanced the health and productivity of women in these nations.
In Japan, a woman may take two days of leave every month if she experiences menstrual symptoms. In a similar vein, South Korea offers one day of leave every month for menstruation-related ailments. Similar to this, Taiwan allows female employees to take three days of menstruation leave each month without having to offer an explanation.
Approved by the parliament, Scotland was the first nation to offer free sanitary pads and tampons to women starting in 2020. Analogously, in 2020, France gave menstrual women free period products.
“Eliminating the tampon levy and giving schoolgirls free period and sanitization products were significant actions taken by Kenya and South Africa. Additionally, they gave the women in the nation free sanitary pads.
Furthermore, many companies have responded to menstruation by providing incentives such as paid time off or other advantages associated with menstruation. Swiggy offers women 10 days of menstrual leave each year, and Zomato has a no-question policy that lets women take as many as two breaks without being interrupted. On the first day of the menstrual cycle, a Mumbai group started giving women leaves. On Women’s Day, Vistara gave away complimentary sanitary pads to female travellers on the plane. Menstrual cups, which are biodegradable and clean, were given to ladies by a Finnish firm called Lunette.

In India, talking about menstruation is taboo because it’s viewed as a sanitary problem and a feminine one. It is imperative that laws address these issues and that rigorous guidelines be established for them.

Adv. Khanak Sharma (D\1710\2023)

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