Extra medical leave for women, given we struggle with a host of other issues, is welcome. And not against anyone’s choice to do so. But when you have a blanket first day of period leave, it really makes me wonder if we’re doing the cause any good. Ideas Editor Kiran Manral debates the premise of the period leave. 

A couple of days ago, Culture Machine, a Mumbai-based digital media company announced a First Day of Period Leave policy for its women employees.

Understandably given my second day of the period is when my uterus threatens to fall out, and a river of blood courses out of my vagina, I was rather miffed with this discrimination against us who suffer more on the second day. But then, this is a debate that I might just not be having in a few years given menopause is beckoning enticingly from the not so distant horizon. And I’m so looking forward to this, given that the period is an inconvenience we could well do without. But as we do have them, and cannot wish them away, this should come as a welcome announcement I thought. But strangely enough, I found myself disagreeing.

She The People
She The People

We have women in space, women in combat, women winning grand slam tournaments while pregnant and women climbing mountains, doing everything they could and should be doing and more. And then there’s the first day of the period.

Extra medical leave for women, given we struggle with a host of other issues, is welcome. And not against anyone’s choice to do so. But when you have a blanket first day of period leave, it really makes me wonder if we’re doing the cause any good

A biological fact, terribly inconvenient for most, severely debilitating for some. Cramps. Nausea. Migraine. A uterus channelling the Niagara Falls. Blood pressure levels going dizzyingly low. Fainting spells. But not for everyone. For the ones who do suffer from it, a period can be terrifyingly uncomfortable.

But a first day of period leave is something I cannot wrap my head around.

I got my first period at the age of nine. My mother, superwoman that she is, had already had the period talk with me. School would do it three years later when I was in the eight grade. I got my first period when I was in the fifth. I was prepared for the fact that I would have blood oozing out of my private parts. What I wasn’t prepared for was the terrible discomfort. The cramps. The nausea. The heavy bleeding that meant I had to run into the bathroom at school thrice a day to change sanitary napkins. Then there was the travelling a fair bit to get to school and college, via BEST buses and trains. By the time I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with severe PCOD and endometriosis, something I was alerted to by heavy periods that went on for almost half the month and haemoglobin levels that were down to a hope and a prayer. Then there was college and work. Periods were dealt with, even when out on field all day. Very uncomfortably at times, of course.

How far does one extend the premise of the first day of period off to? In our own cities, daily wage earners wouldn’t be able to avail of it. It means a day’s income lost.

One went to school. One went to college. One went in to work. Through the first day. Through the second day. Through all the days. No matter what the bleeding, the cramping, the migraines, the nausea. If it was unbearable one called in sick. I know many women who do the same. Get into work. Get the work done.

Also Read: What’s it like to have your period in space?

How far does one extend the premise of the first day of period off to? In our own cities, daily wage earners wouldn’t be able to avail of it. It means a day’s income lost. In the villages, women who work the fields won’t avail of it. It is their own fields they work and the day lost is a day lost. Do we extend it to schools and colleges where girls are allowed a day off on their first day of the period? What about athletes? Do they get to skip major meets because they’re dealing with first day of periods? Female astronauts? Combat pilots? Or perhaps just regular commercial pilots who are women? Movie actresses-when entire sets and production units are booked and put into place around dates allocated for shoots? Women scientists overseeing satellite launches? How do we decide which jobs and professions mandate a first day of period leave and which do not? Homemakers won’t get first day of period off, and theirs is as tough a job as anything done in a work space. Taking a first day of period off from a work space might also get interesting given how most women who work or live together tend to get synchronised cycles. What about women on irregular cycles? How does HR monitor cycle dates?

What about athletes? Do they get to skip major meets because they’re dealing with first day of periods? Female astronauts? Combat pilots? Or perhaps just regular commercial pilots who are women?

There’s medical leave, which we do have. We could have a few more days of medical leave to deal with days when our uteruses render us unproductive, if we choose to avail of it. Extra medical leave for women, given we struggle with a host of other issues, is welcome. And not against anyone’s choice to do so. But when you have a blanket first day of period leave, it really makes me wonder if we’re doing the cause any good. If the discomfort and the pain is unbearable, it would be nicer to get to a gynaecologist and check out the underlying causes, and get the treatment in place instead of suffering every single month.   That is essential.

The rest, of course, we could debate in circles to the moon and back.

Ends