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Spain on the way to menstrual leave

This measure is part of a larger bill, adopted yesterday, which aims to strengthen the right to abortion. On the question of rules, the government wants employees to be able to take days off in the event of disabling pain, such as cramps, violent migraines or vomiting which affect around 15% of women. It would work exactly like a classic sick leave – there is no time limit – signed by a doctor, and covered by Social Security.

In any case, there is no longer any question of keeping quiet or hiding, says the Minister for Equality: “It’s over with the taboo, the stigma, the suffering in silence“, says Irene Montero, from the left-wing Podemos party.

Go to work in pain, it’s over” she says. “Stuffing yourself with drugs to be able to go to work is over! Having to hide for several days at work that you are sick is over too. We are the first European country to recognize in a law that menstrual health part of a woman’s sexual and reproductive rights”. As for LGBT rights or the fight against violence against women, Spain is a pioneer in Europe on menstrual leave.

MEPs must now adopt the text. The majority in Parliament is almost certain – the text has already been largely negotiated behind the scenes before being presented – but the process will take a few more months.

Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia. In Japan, this right has been enshrined in law since 1947, but it is up to employers to determine both the duration of absences and their remuneration. In fact, a tiny number of women use it. In South Korea it’s one day a month, unpaid. Fewer than two out of ten women say they use it. But companies that do not comply with the law are subject to a fine – symbolic, less than 4,000 euros.

Without waiting for governments to take hold of the subject, a few companies here and there offer “menstrual leave”. This is the case of a pension fund in Australia, a meal delivery company in India… And an SME in France which manufactures office furniture, Louis Design.

The measure was put in place only last month. It offers menstruating people the possibility of taking an additional day off every month, without medical proof or loss of salary. The young employees say they are very proud of “contribute to the reduction of inequalities between men and women“.

However, this is not necessarily a consensual measure. In Spain there was a debate. Within the government itself, some have distanced themselves from a measure which they believe risks creating discrimination. “Assuming that menstruation alone requires special attention can be unnecessary and harmful” says Andrea Fernandez, deputy and secretary for equality in the Socialist Party (PSOE).

The argument is taken up by the unions: employers will not want to hire a woman if she risks being absent every month. “At interviews we are already regularly asked if we want to become a mother“, says the deputy secretary of the UGT, “Will the next step be to ask ourselves if our periods are painful?“Despite these few discordant notes, the majority welcomes the end of a rearguard taboo, nourished by several centuries of patriarchal culture.

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