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‘Absurd, disservice‘ — how women are reacting to Tharoor’s petition on menstrual leave

While Barkha Dutt argued 'menstrual leave ghettoises women', Shama Mohamed said women can do whatever a man does at his workplace during their menstrual cycles.

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New Delhi: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s tweet advocating menstrual leave on the occasion of International Women’s Day Sunday has sparked sharp reactions on social media, most of which were by women who opposed him.

In his tweet, Tharoor shared a petition for “gender-inclusive workplaces in India” and wrote: “Do you support menstrual leave for women at public and private workplaces?”.

The tweet garnered sharp reactions.

Dutt, who has been vocal on the issue in the past, was one of the bigger names who joined the brigade against him. She argued that “menstrual leave ghettoises women, becomes one more excuse to close certain professional doors on women and treats the monthly period as a grand event instead of routine biology”.

Dutt was not alone. Tharoor also faced opposition from within his party ranks, as Congress’ national spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee and its national media panellist Shama Mohamed questioned such a leave for women.

While Mukherjee did not reply to Tharoor’s tweet, she tagged him on the link to an article that was penned by Dutt in 2017. She wrote how Dutt’s article gave an explanation on the “absurdity of the idea of menstrual leave & how it can actually do disservice to cause of women empowerment”.

Questioning Tharoor’s take on menstruation, Mohamed similarly wrote: “We are strong enough to work, run, exercise & do whatever a man does at his workplace while we have our menstrual cycle!”

Also read: India’s workplaces need to understand menstruation better. Period

Have option of ‘work from home’ or ‘leave with pay’

Titled ‘Make laws and policy declaring menstrual leave for women’, the petition shared by Tharoor states that “all employed women in India should have an option to take ‘work from home’ or ‘leave with pay’ for two days every month, by private and public employers”.

Citing Article 42 of the Constitution, which states that “the State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief”, the plea seeks a debate on workplaces to have “conditions which are in alignment with women’s needs”.

The petition also includes medical reports that reveal the effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) on a woman’s productivity and how 25 million women in India suffer from endometriosis — “a chronic condition in which the pain is so bad that it could lead to women passing out from it”.

This is not the first time that Tharoor has raised his voice for menstrual leave.

An author of 19 books, the Congress leader had introduced a Private Member’s Bill in 2018 titled ‘The Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill’ on the grounds “to emphasise on the agency of a woman in her sexual and reproductive rights and to guarantee menstrual equity for all women by the State”.

Tharoor finds a comrade in Lok Sabha member from Arunachal Pradesh, Ninong Ering, who also shared a Private Member’s Bill titled ‘The Menstruation Benefit Bill’ in 2017 that demanded “two days of paid menstrual leave for women in the public and private sector”.

However, the issue is yet to be addressed in Parliament.

Also read: A global demand for one’s place under the sun, Women’s Day is a fight not a celebration


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