Menstrual leave is a policy granted to women who experience debilitating pain during their menstrual cycle. In recent years, countries around the world have introduced various menstrual leave policies to address the issue and provide a better environment for women. Spain is the latest country to join this movement, with the approval of a new menstrual leave policy in February 2023. The policy was proposed by Spain's Equality Minister, Irene Montero, in 2022.
Spain's new menstrual leave policy grants the right to a "three-day medically supervised leave, with the ability to extend to five, for those with disabling periods: severe pain, cramps, cramping, cramping, nausea, dizziness and vomiting that some women suffer every cycle". This policy also includes free contraceptives and the morning-after pill, a paid prepartum leave of 36 weeks until delivery, and a ban on surrogacy, which is deemed a form of violence against women. Furthermore, Spain has introduced free period products at public facilities and educational institutions to combat period poverty, which affects 1 in 10 girls in Europe.
The policy has several benefits, including allowing women to take rest during their periods, promoting gender equality in the workplace, increasing productivity, and positive branding for companies. However, there are also criticisms of the policy. Some argue that it is a temporary solution that may actually hinder women's chances of getting a job due to their paid absence, which could fall on important days. Moreover, it increases the cost of labor for firms, and the percentage of women taking leave has dramatically decreased in countries where it has been previously implemented.
Menstrual leave was first granted in Post-Revolutionary Russia but was removed in 1927 due to discrimination against women. In 1912, the south Indian state of Kerala granted its girls' school menstrual leave, but it was later removed. Japan was the first country to implement it successfully over the decades, followed by South Korea, Indonesia, Zambia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The policies followed in these countries vary, with some offering a day off every month without a reason and others offering an extra 30-minute break during their menstrual cycle. Nowadays, few corporations also offer menstrual leave to their employees, such as Zomato, a food delivery company in India.
Spain's menstrual leave policy is a commendable step forward for women's health and equality. However, it is essential to ensure that the policy is properly implemented and not misused. With the implementation of this policy, Spain joins a growing number of countries recognizing the importance of menstrual health and taking action to address it.
Edited by Fahima Afrin
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