Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 22 December 2023


Relevance: GS II (Social Justice)

  • Prelims: Government Initiatives for Women and Minorities;
  • Mains: Women Issues

Why in News?

Smriti Irani, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, expressed her disagreement with the idea of 'paid menstruation leave'

  • She emphasised that menstruation, in her view, should not be regarded as a "handicap," and hence should not warrant a "paid leave policy."

Why menstruation leave is necessary?

  • "Scientific" rationale for giving a break during their menstruation: 
    • A large number of women suffer from "dysmenorrheal”, a condition where periods are accompanied by severe cramps and pelvic pain, often with heavy flow or clotting. 
    • An absence of a provision like menstruation leave means exhausting all of one's limited casual leaves to be able to stay home during this period of immense discomfort and pain.

  • Infrastructural lags: Infrastructural lacks, such as clean toilets, regular water supply, hygienic changing rooms, and absence of emergency sanitary pads and resting spaces, expose how our workplaces are designed with a male as the prototype worker. 
  • Need for Co-work space: There is no denying that menstruation can also be painless and discomfort-free for many, but the demands of inclusive and gender-just workplaces require that they be acknowledging and accommodating of all. 
  • Issue of Work Productivity: The logic that women's physiology and biological roles could result in them being denied professional opportunities needs to be rejected.
  • Humanitarian Criteria: Women were isolated and excluded from household labor because of prejudices around menstruation and its association with "pollution". 
    • Such logic has harmed the bodily and emotional integrity of generations of women, for whom sometimes the exclusion from the "workspace of home served as a respite from toil and sweat, and at all other times, as a reminder of the inferiority of their ontological status.
    • The experience of and the struggles accompanying menstruation are many.

The other side of the Coin:

  • The issue with the universal provision: There is also an assumption that if this provision is made, women who may not experience difficult periods would also take leaves, an underlying belief that any reason to shirk work is always lapped up. 
  • Self-declarative policies: To the contrary, many whose workplaces are designed in ways that affirm and acknowledge women's presence look forward to going there. 
  • Other Responsibilities: At home, whether in pain or not, women are rarely able to escape domestic responsibilities. Many treasures their office desks, bonds with colleagues, and a space where they can be valued as professionals.

Way Forward:

  • Awareness is Necessary: It is important to recognise the history and memories of segregation and humiliation which women in India have battled to overcome. What was needed in history was kindness, compassion, and consideration, and the same at present. 
  • State intervention is needed: The state/bureaucracy needs to provide medical recognition to difficulties faced by menstruating women, not to essentialise women in the labour force but as a basic human premise, not threatened by women asking for change based on their biology.
    • Also, there was a need to reiterate the difference between normalising menstruation and invisibilising the experience. 


Mains PYQ

Q. ‘Women’s movement in India has not addressed the issues of women of lower social strata.’ Substantiate your view. (UPSC 2018)

Q. What are the continued challenges for Women in India against time and space? (UPSC 2019)

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