Equality between men and women can only be achieved if people of both sexes try to understand how the bodies of both sexes function. The biological qualities of both, men and women are different from each other and failure to understand the same leads to conflicts between them. For example, there are seats reserved for women in local BEST buses which run throughout Mumbai from morning to night. Now the question that is of utmost importance is that’s why are seats reserved for women if the women themselves are fighting for equality against the male gender? The female anatomy goes through changes throughout the month at different stages which range from good to worst. Changes like the pre-menstruation phase, menstrual phase, mood swings due to menstruation, pregnancy, feeling tired or heavy due to cramps and the weight of the baby and so on are so on occur in a female’s body around the year. These changes are not always visible to the world. This is the reason behind the reservation of seats for women in public buses.
In case any woman is on her period or is pregnant it is important for her to sit down on a seat and not expose her body to jerks or sudden movements. Reservation of seats helps women to get onto the bus or train and settle down and have a relaxing journey when they experience these changes. It is not right for women to get onto the bus or train and ask other people to get up from their seats just because they are in pain. The reserved seats help the women to make sure that they get to sit without disturbing others. This reservation does not mean that there is the promotion of inequality but it means that even after being exposed to such bodily changes women are strong enough to get up and travel to school, college, work and so on with the help of rest that they get when they sit on the seats reserved for them without having to request someone else to get up from their own seat and give it to them. This results in inequality between men and women as even after experiencing so many changes, women do not sit at home but go to work just like men do.
Meaning of Menstruation
Menstruation is a cycle that every female body goes through every 25-30 days depending on each one’s body. It is a process which occurs when the egg released from the ovary of the female does not mate with the sperm released by the male body during intercourse or the mating process does not occur as the woman does not have intercourse with another male. The egg from the ovary is released into the uterus every month as the uterus is the organ in which the zygote formation takes place after the sperm enters the uterus of the female through intercourse. The zygote formed eventually grows into a foetus and after nine months the baby is born. A lining consisting of various fluids and blood is created in the uterus once the egg enters the uterus after being released from the ovary. This lining is retained in the uterus if the egg is fertilised by the sperm which results in the formation of a zygote.
This zygote over a period of nine months grows into a baby and is born through the vagina of the female body. After delivery of the baby, the lining and fluids continue to secrete from the female’s uterus through the vagina for a couple of days and times even a month. In case, if the egg is not fertilised when it is released in the uterus every month, the lining formed in the uterus along with the egg is thrown out of the female’s body through the vagina from the uterus. This secretion may last for some days depending on the body’s cycle. The throwing out of the lining, blood, as well as the egg, is called ‘periods’ which occur in every female. The colour of this fluid ranges from light red to brown which again differs from body to body. This secretion occurs as the egg is not fertilised and the lining, as well as the egg, are of no use to the body which is why they are thrown out at the right time.
Effects of Menstruation on the Human Body
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a process that occurs before menstruation. PMS can range from mood swings, tiredness, and pain in the lower abdomen area due to contractions and expansions in the uterus to heavy and sore breasts, heavy cramps in the calf of the legs and back and vomiting. These result in the woman being tired and can also be a sign that menstruation is going to commence soon. During menstruation, the symptoms of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome may be seen along with constant bleeding, lower abdominal pain, vaginal pain, food cravings, loss of appetite, loose motions and so on. These along with continuous bleeding for a period of approximately 5 – 10 days result in the body being exhausted and tired. Rest is essential during these days as it is advised that painkillers should not be taken to relieve the pain caused due to menstruation. During olden times when pads and tampons were not available, women used pieces of cloth in order to absorb the blood during periods. They were made to sit in a different room when they got periods so that they could rest and we were not involved in any household work. They were also made to sit separately as the blood would at times leak from the cloth and stain their sarees. But now in contemporary times when there are pads and tampons available, women are comfortable enough to go to school, college and work without the fear of leakage of blood. But the internal pain and discomfort still remain and rest is essential.
Need for Menstrual Leave
In today’s world where women are at par with men in every field of work as well as education, it is necessary to consider the concept of menstrual leave. Menstrual leave is the leave that a woman may take when she is menstruating in order to rest and relieve the cramps that her body experiences. In India, it is not yet a law to grant menstrual leave to students as well as workers. But countries like Japan, Zambia, South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia have some sort of menstrual leave which is available to their employees. Apart from women, people belonging to the binary gender as well as transgender also experience periods which many people are not aware about.
Since 1947 in Japan, Article 68 of the Labour Standards Law states that “When a woman for whom work during menstrual periods would be especially difficult has requested leave, the employer shall not employ such woman on days of the menstrual period.” Even though the law is in force, it does not mandate that people take period leaves and nor does it pay them extra if they do not take the period leave even when they are on their periods. However, in South Korea, women are assured extra pay if they do not take period leave and work even when they have periods. Spain a European country, has proposed new legislation which will allow women to take menstrual leave every month. If this proposal is approved then it will set a benchmark for other countries as well to incorporate the same in their jurisdiction.
It is essential to rest for people who menstruate as not doing so may lead to complications like fainting due to over-exertion of the body, fever due to the extreme pain, unbearable cramps and so on. In order to avoid this, it is important for people at schools, colleges and workplaces to understand the situation one goes through while menstruating and consider it either a form of sickness that is covered under ‘sick leave’ provided by the institution/workplace or under a separate leave called ‘menstrual leave’. This leave should only be provided to the ones who menstruate. The leave will mostly be granted to people who have female reproductive organs as they are the ones who will get periods.
Menstrual leave does not mean that workplaces or schools are biased toward people who get periods as compared to men who do not get the leaves. The bodies of both sexes are different and if the female body goes through certain changes which the male body does not go through then the leave will also be only for the female body. It does not mean that there is inequality between the two sexes. It means that there is a natural distinction between them and providing menstrual leave is going to help reduce the inequality between the two sexes as rest will prove helpful for the female body during periods and she can start working at par with men once she recovers from her periods in a span of a couple of days.
Kerala Government’s decision on Menstrual Leave
The Kerala Government has decided to provide menstrual leave to its female students studying in all state universities coming under the Department of Higher Education. This was confirmed by the education minister of Kerala, R Bindu. This a step towards making studies bearable during the days of periods as one suffers from mental and physical difficulties. This decision was taken on the footsteps of the decision taken by the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) which provides menstrual leave to its students. The decision taken by the Kerala Government is a remarkable one and should be extended to the rest of India as soon as possible. The decision by the Kerala government does not include menstrual leave pertaining to schools and workplaces which is also important.
According to me, it should be included in the purview of menstrual leave as school girls and women who go to work also experience periods like college students do and it is important for them to rest as well. This decision by the Kerala government only includes colleges and students who opt for higher studies. Even though it is a step towards the betterment of society, the step is incomplete and should include all people who get periods like women, binary as well as transgender from all domains such as school, college and workplace.
Being a woman, I understand that it is not easy to work on days when I experience periods. But I also could not push forward my deadlines and get away with it because I had my period going on. An easier way out would be to take a leave from school/college/work when I have my period and no vital deadline is approaching. If paid menstrual leaves are granted by institutions and companies both public as well as private throughout India, the work environment would be healthier. It is important for men to understand and acknowledge what a female body goes through every month and what can be done to provide some sort of relief to it. The issues mentioned in the article and the steps taken by the government is an important issue which needs to be resolved as soon as possible to make the world a better place to live in. The period is a topic which is not spoken about openly in India but I feel it is high time that society acknowledges it to be a natural process and works towards the betterment of the period health of those who experience them.