Why Women's Menstruation Experience Is Much More Than A Day Off

The Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023 theme is “Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030.” Normalcy doesn’t mean ignoring issues. It must be about giving women the opportunity to openly talk about their health needs that can’t be compared to a man. 

Mohua Chinappa
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It all started with two Indian firms who introduced a policy to give female employees a “period day” off every month. But currently, as women, we are baffled as to, whether should we celebrate this by recognising the sensitivity towards gender identity, or are we to ponder on the subject that this idea, is maybe hinging the productivity among employees and making women look handicapped for getting their periods?


As women, we know the first two days can be brutal with our monthly cycles. The body gets ready to shed blood consecutively for 3 days and in some cases almost 7 days in a row. Many women suffer from bloating, nausea, sometimes ulcers in the mouth, a nagging leg ache or a constant headache. All women will agree that they feel totally out of sync for those few days. The first day and the second day were the toughest of them all. But the shame attached to this subject teaches women to overlook the pain and march on ahead, without listening to their bodies. A concept of sacrifice that has been passed on from generations that we blindly follow. 

Why Normalcy Does Not Mean Ignoring Issues

It is very devastating as a woman to read the latest comment by Smriti Irani who went on to say, “As a menstruating woman, menstruation and the menstruation cycle is not a handicap, it’s a natural part of a woman’s life journey”. This statement made by a woman minister, that most of us look up to, is without any thought. We are overlooking the importance of sensitisation towards a vital part of a woman’s life journey. And this coming from a lady in a position of power, takes us back in the fight against regressive attitudes towards one gender. 

This statement is indirectly telling men to ignore a woman’s suffering during periods. What is worse is that women who suffer from endometriosis, women who are pre-menopausal and PCOD or PCOS have an even tougher time during the period cycles, we are asking society to overlook the effects of these diseases that women have been ashamed to discuss to date. 

The day which can be taken off under “menstrual leave”  was launched by Mumbai-based firms Culture Machine and Gozoop. It was about announcing that the culture of the taboos associated with menstruation needs sensitisation. One can only be proud of companies like these which are unafraid to break the mould of the past regressive ideas around menstruation and a woman’s health. 

Sadly, Smriti Irani in this statement is bypassing the deeper impact this “Day Off” can have on society at large. If all companies begin to give leave, the sensitivity would automatically set in. She is overlooking the possibility of a cultural and mindset shift that this can herald.  With one day off in offices, for men, it signals the understanding that also within their family structures, office colleagues and friends they need to contribute to household chores during this phase. This sensitivity is missing and with this practice in place, once all offices adopt this system of a day off, this can have a positive impact on the lives of many women in our country, who may not be working women too. 


There are women who are suffering from diseases like endometriosis. With the “pay leave” the lens will probably also be on an unspoken discussion around this disease. 

Endometriosis as we know, is a disease that involves the pelvic tissue and can envelop the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It can also affect nearby organs, including the bowel and bladder movements. So during the menstrual cycle, or period, this tissue responds to hormones, and due to its location, it frequently results in unbearable pain. Often girls take years to even speak up about this condition during their periods. She does need a day off signalling understanding of her situation. 

Why Discussion Around Menstruation Needs To Educate Men Too

Most girls even to date are discouraged from discussing menstrual issues. As school girls of the 70s and 80s most used words like “being down” or having “chums”. Words that automatically bring a sense of shame to talk about a natural process of a woman’s body. We all have been victims of hiding our sanitary napkins in black dustbin covers that are handed to us by the chemist. The black cover is symbolic of the disgust and shame around a menstruating woman. 

According to India's largest period health study, it reveals alarming trends of 70% of Indian women who face menstrual health issues. If 70% isn’t enough of a percentage for women to get this day off to recover from the period pain, then what is the data that can bring this sensitisation into our outdated attitudes? 

The theme for Menstrual Hygiene Day 2023 is about “Making menstruation a normal fact of life by 2030”. Normalcy doesn’t mean ignoring the issues. It must be about giving women the opportunity to embrace their bodies and their health needs that can’t be compared to a man. 


Currently, worldwide, menstrual leave is being offered only in a small number of countries including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia. We hope India will also be included in this list of countries.

Also, it is only in India where the Kamakhya temple remains closed for three days during the mela, as it is believed that Goddess Kamakhya rests for three days like the traditional women's menstrual seclusion. During these three days, some restrictions are observed by the devotees like not cooking, not performing puja or reading holy books, not farming etc. just to worship the female goddess during her periods.

One day off in the offices is also about reiterating and embracing “Sanatan Dharma” which understands her pain. 

Views expressed are the author's own.

Mohua Chinappa is an author and runs a podcast called The Mohua Show.

Menstruation menstrual leave policy