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First-Day-of-Period leave: Trupti Desai, Abha Singh rip apart Barkha, Shobhaa De extends support

By Shreya

The debate around the plausibility of a First-Day-of-Period leave has been going around for long now, after a Mumbai based company implemented the policy in their organisation.

Journalist Barkha Dutt

When most women were jumping with joy, expecting similar policy to be implemented at their workplaces, Journalist Barkha Dutt wrote an article in Washington Post, titled "I'm a feminist. Giving women a day off for their period is a stupid idea."

Calling the initiative a "harebrained policy", Dutt argued that the policy is unnecessary because, "Our periods can be annoyingly uncomfortable and often painful, but this reality usually demands no more than a Tylenol or Meftal and, if needed, a hot-water bottle."

While many opposed her argument, Author Shobhaa De spoke to OneIndia and said that she agrees with Barkha Dutt.

"I agree with Barkha. I certainly don't want women to be treated like sick people. Periods are a part of a woman's life. They must be accepted. But granting leave is counterproductive to the overall cause of women," De said.

De also claimed that such a step would further create a divide between men and women, "Periods are not a sickness! As a national level athlete myself, I didn't let periods stop me from competing and winning. Neither did I ever skip a day's work because of period cramps. Let's not create further alienation because of this issue. It will bolster prejudice and hamper career women from getting ahead," she added.

However, several women criticized Dutt's argument, Trupti Desai, Women Activist and Founder of Bhumata Brigade called it a 'welcome move', she said, "There is no reason to oppose such a move, women who experience severe pain during their period should be able to avail an off."

When asked if this would be perceived as a setback to equality, she exclaimed, "Men don't get periods, it's women who have to go through this biological cycle for the most part of their life."

Trupti Desai's thoughts were backed by Bombay High Court Lawyer Abha Singh, who called, Barkha Dutt's argument on the issue, "regressive", Singh questioned, "How can you call this inequality? Tomorrow will you question maternity leave as well?

Abha Singh further said, "If you call this move discriminatory, I would say this is positive-discrimination. This is one of the best steps towards gender-sensitization."

Without taking any name, Singh revealed that some of the biggest law firms in Mumbai make pregnant women work long hours, and if these women oppose, they risk losing the job, she said that such companies need to be raided.

AISA President Kawalpreet Kaur also had a sharp reaction to Dutt's article, she said that Dutt should not 'homogenise' the issue as period pain differs from women to women. No two women feel the same pain, supporting the policy, Kaur said, "Such policy should be implemented, but it should be left to women if they want to avail the leave or not."

While this debate will continue, the reality is that many women do suffer excruciating pain on the first day of their period and diseases like Polycystic ovary and Endometriosis are on the rise, thanks to modern lifestyle and stress.

However, Gynaecologist Shyamal Mukherjee and Manju Gupta reiterated Dutt's argument saying that period pain is not a big deal.

Mukherjee said, "Rather than not going to work, women should get treated for period pain if it's very severe and prevents them from working."

Refuting statements which said that leaves on period are detrimental to women empowerment, Joyonto Mukherjee, founder of Trained and Tutored, said, "I have made sure that there is a two-day off scheme for women who undergo severe period cramps. My company has around 85% women, and all they need to do is just drop a text message to the HR to avail the leaves."

He also said, "Sensitivity is very important, this is not a fight between sexes, this is about understanding the reality and accepting it, schools and colleges should also start implementing the policy."

Raj Kamal, Art Consultant of TV18 Broadcast Ltd called this a 'thoughtful gesture and said that people who are calling it discriminatory should understand what discrimination is. He added, discrimination would be giving women 50% pay hike for just being women.

The issue of First-day-of-period leave has garnered diverse opinions, while most people say that the choice should be left to women whether they want such a leave or not, one must remember, not all women live with the privilege of making a choice.

For example, women working in factories don't have the choice of taking a day off on their period because that would mean a day's salary cut, a reason why many are pressing for a law to be enforced, where women can claim a leave if they experience severe menstrual cramps.

OneIndia also spoke to working men and women on the issue, here's what they had to say:

Sonika Tewari, College Lecturer, Mumbai: It's not a new thing, women can't afford to be such delicate darlings, by now women should have been able to manage the pain. There's no need for such a leave as that would only hamper work flow.

Sreya Chatterjee, Journalist: I believe it should be a choice. A lot of women have a painless period, many don't. I completely feel this should be left on choice.

Soumyadipta Banerjee, Blogger, and Founder of Bollywood Journalist: Most male bosses in the corporate sector are sensitized enough and educated about being more vigilant towards creating a favourable workplace for women. But most women won't reveal about their first day of period as a cause for leave.

Shreyosi Mazumdar, Corporate Lawyer: I am against it. I think claiming equality and privileges at the same time is hypocrisy. It is a natural phenomenon and many of us face immense discomfort. Let us utilize our leaves for that.

Kangkan Acharya, Journalist: To decide on such a policy we need a scientific study. Organisations cannot incorporate something just because it is fashionable to do. They need to leave space for policies which are necessary to be implemented. Secondly, if the Government decides to grant this off to women working in govt offices it should also come up with a policy for women working in the informal sector too.

Though it is difficult to draw a conclusion, such discussion or debate surrounding period would at least help break the taboo around the issue

OneIndia News

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