Menstrual health and gender equality are taboos in India, where food delivery service Zomato gave its female and transgender employees up to 10 days of paid “period leave” each year in August.
The introduction of menstrual leave is not the first time this has been discussed. Even though Cultural Machine and Gozoop, who introduced the allowance in a lesser-known capacity, had previously, Zomato was the first high-profile company to do so, with the company’s founder and CEO, Deepinder Goyal, explaining that the organisation wanted to “promote a culture of trust, truth, and acceptance.” Even if we have an employer who is receptive to this topic, the difficulty is that they won’t respect you. But, according to Namrata Nair, a 28-year-old Delhi resident who works in marketing, a prominent company like Zomato taking this kind of action will hopefully help open the way for more enterprises to follow suit.
To make matters worse, a dangerously low level of understanding about the subject of women’s health creates damaging assumptions and precedents, say Nair and specialists who work on women’s issues in India.
Menstruation experiences are varied for each person, and they can also change with time. Nonetheless, it is the case that women and girls worldwide, especially in India, are still confronted with stigma and may develop menstruation-related problems due to the absence of attention to and education and research about menstruation.
UN Women works with governments and civil society to establish laws, policies, and programmes to empower women.
Menstruation is an important part of women’s lives, and women must make informed decisions about their own menstruation and assistance. Such care and support should be available through various systems and institutions. Through applying what we learn from women in different sectors—public or private—we may build policies and actions based on women and girls’ lived experiences.
Pain and illness are part of the process of menstruation, but Nair believes women should only resort to these methods as a last option and should not consider them answers for everyday pain and disease. Also, she demonstrates how women must take these substances, not because of harmful hustle culture or society’s demands, but because of their own personal decisions.
Some mornings, I’m in such much pain that I can’t even get out of bed. It’s okay if your pals don’t feel it; I know some females who puke from the discomfort, so each person’s body reacts differently. An injury means time off work, and if obliged to stay at work, using painkillers (which also lead to ulcers or greater tolerance) may lead to health issues down the road. Adolescents, in particular, may not know that these adverse effects, such as weight gain, hormone disorders, and fertility problems, occur as a result of the use of birth control pills. That’s like dealing with not only having your period but also being uncomfortable because the world can’t adjust, according to Nair.
A multitude of women’s rights advocates and social media users celebrated Zomato’s move. Lavanya Ballal, the Congress party’s social media coordinator, tweeted: “The majority of women take pain medicines and keep working. Some women find it to be almost impossible to work throughout their menstrual cycles. This won’t impact the hard-won space that women have gained. Instead, it could be viewed as an attempt to obtain “special treatment” and possibly reverse the progress women have made in advancing gender equality in the workplace.
This is precisely what ghettoises women and reinforces biological determinism. Like Barkha Dutt, many other female journalists in India wrote, “We cannot wish to join the infantry, report combat, fly fighter jets, go into space, have no exceptionalism, and desire period leave.”
Nonetheless, young working women such as Nair believe that businesses should take the initiative and empathise with their employees rather than expecting women to undergo such hardship solely for the sake of proving a statement.
Disappointing because Barkha Dutt, a powerful member of the media, makes such kind of statement. However, there are a lot of individuals who admire her work. So why does she still exert gatekeeping influence when she has paved the way? Her perspective makes sense to me, as she’s had to fight hard to build a name for herself in a world that men heavily dominated, and therefore she began to view her challenges through a masculine perspective. From a worker’s perspective, looking at the problem from the worker’s point of view rather than the employer’s point of view is fine, according to Nair.
To me, the epidemic has also demonstrated that you can be as productive working from home as you are if you regularly go to the workplace, and it doesn’t matter if you never get to the office on a given day. Also, firms can make additional changes if women are too ill to work.
Despite conflicting feminist viewpoints, these dialogues have allowed the public to open discussion about a taboo topic. Zomato CEO Saikiran Ghosh also added, “There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma in requesting time off, whether you are an employee or self-employed,” according to his statement.
According to Pandey, one of the critical UN Women programmes in India addresses the problem of period poverty, which is especially acute in rural areas. For example, UNICEF claims that one-quarter of all girls in school stop going to school during their periods because they have to use gendered facilities or sanitary products that are not provided in school. So this means missed chances for females in the workforce.
To raise awareness about menstruation hygiene and give health check-ups, certain village councils in India (gramme panchayats) have started commemorating “Chuppi Todo Diwas” (Break the Silence Day). Some menstrual hygiene management issues, like the lack of safe access to and disposal of adequate menstrual hygiene products, and an abundance of myths, have been shattering the silence around this issue for decades. The debates around those issues have broken the silence, allowing menstruation to be more openly discussed for the first time in a long time.
This article originally appeared in Media India Group. Follow the link to read the original post.