By SHWETA RAJ KANWAR | March 24, 2018
I recently came across ‘the Menstruation Benefit Bill’ moved by Arunachal Pradesh MP Ninong Ering and I must admit on the face of it – it was indeed laudable and thoughtful of a Member of Parliament to think of us women along these lines! After all since the inception of woman aspiring and getting employment, nobody had proposed for women working in public and private sector to get two days of paid menstrual leave every month while providing better facilities for rest at workplace during menstruation.
Its indeed a refreshing step and we must appreciate this. However, like all revolutionary ideas, there is always a fear of a double edged sword and while we have many people supporting this bill, I am quite sure there will be skeptics who will use this well meaning move to counter us women in many manifolds.
The first by-product that will accompany this Bill will be this that more and more firms will begin to employ lesser women. The reason? Well, who would want an employee who would be on two days leave every single month? Might as well employ a man! This will further sideline the role of women in the professional field.
Furthermore, while it is true that menstruation is often deemed as an unwelcome visitor in our lives and dealing with it can actually give us a hard time but let me also tell you- as a writer and journalist, I have produced some of my best works while on menstruation and often, also outperformed by male counterparts while facing a ‘bloody encounter’! And of course, I know many women who do not bother taking leaves during their PMSs for we are pretty good at the art of adaptation!
I am not a feminist for I believe in equality. For the past 12 years, PMS and menstruation has become a part of my life- yes, it was difficult to cope in the initial years but like I said, we are adaptable creatures. My predecessors have been experiencing this since times immemorial and my fellow contemporaries still face it every month of their lives. I am wondering what if this demand would have come from an ordinary common woman like me? Would it have the same response?
I remember clearly, last year, Congress MP from Silchar Susmita Deb actively voiced for tax free sanitary pads. A lot of support was also shown online with numerous women and some men ‘signing’ the online campaign but what happened next? Well, we are still paying taxes every month on 2 packets of sanitary pads and those who cannot afford it are still using washable pieces of cloths every month for 8 days.
So you want us to stay at home while we are on heavy flow, but it is okay when people stare at us with disgusted looks when our clothes are stained with blood? So you think the solution to this is keeping us home and averting the situation!
There still persists inequality in terms of salaries between men and women! Many of us still do not hold top positions in companies because we are soft targets- easy to harass, molest, rape and this, in turn acts as a deterrent to our growth in career. Ever thought about strengthening women’s safety in private and govt. companies? Ever thought about initiating equal pay for men, women and third genders alike? Ever thought about more representation of women in the political scenario for that matter?
We really do not need to be patronized- if you really wish to make it easy for us, then urge on changing the mindset of those who still feel that women are weak when on menstruation, those who still pack sanitary napkins on brown paper bags or black polythene, those who still urge that we should pay taxes for something that happens to us involuntarily, those who still look at us with disgust when our pants/kurtas/skirts are stained with blood!
Below the surface of this Bill is not empathy, it is patronization of women and No, we do not want this. We need, in fact to be empowered, to be supported when we choose to come out and work while we are menstruating. Numerous organizations in India are helping to make this cycle an easy one for women by producing sanitary pads out of clothes without any chemicals for a healthy cycle but what is the support they receive from the government’s end? Ever thought about empowering these women who are not only working for themselves but also for their sisters around the country?
Do not urge on keeping us at home while we wish to come out and face the world- In fact, please teach the world to adapt to us!
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