Why the demand for menstrual leave is justifiable?

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By Arti Soyal (New Delhi): ‘Period’: What comes to your mind when you read this word? All of us have different takes on this word but most of us women agree that menstruation is not a comfortable experience but an important biological process.

In recent times, discussion around this topic has increased and thanks to the initiative taken up by WASH United in 2013, now we have a designated day for celebrating Menstrual Hygiene Day on 28th May of every year.

WASH United works to build a world in which people benefit from safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), including menstrual hygiene.

Despite an increased awareness about ‘periods’, women continue to struggle in managing their menstrual cycle.

I have recently conducted a Google survey around this topic in which women belonging to different age groups and professions participated.

The findings of the survey somewhat shocked me as around 35% women were unaware of menstruation before they started menstruating.

And when they started menstruating their first reaction was fear (57%) and embarrassment (22.6%).

While a majority of women used disposable pads for managing their period (92.3%), a majority of them were not aware that the long usage of this product can lead to diseases that can be deadly like Toxic Shock Syndrome (47.3%).

About 38% of women responded that they are forced to use sanitary products for longer hours as they are costly. Therefore, they urged the government to intervene in this matter and provide it free of cost.

While the Indian government has taken various initiatives in this regard by providing sanitary products at a subsidised rate, they are not easily available and have to be changed frequently because of their low absorbance capacity.

While changing the pads frequently is not an issue at home where you have access to clean washrooms and water, in public places it becomes an unpleasant experience.

About 19% of women responded that their menstrual cycle is holding them back and 25% of women responded with a ‘maybe’ answer.

When we see these kinds of responses from women, automatically the need for menstrual leave somewhat becomes justifiable in our mind.

(This article is written by Arti Soyal, who is a Ph.D. Research Scholar in the Department of Political Science at the University of Delhi.)