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Is Period Leave Inclusive?

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I don’t let my maid work in the house on days when she is menstruating.” This is an obnoxiously common view we have heard from many household employers in India. Of course, this means that domestic workers have to notify employers on the days they menstruate. On such days, the house help is either not allowed entry into the house (mandatory leave, perhaps without pay!), or her movement is restricted—with the kitchen, pooja room, utensils, and cooking being out of bounds. This Brahminical patriarchal norm has long governed employer–employee relations in the domestic sphere in India, often in hushed tones and behind closed doors.

In contrast, “period leave” that has emerged in the organised sector in the last few years is discretionary, inclusive, and upholds foundational values of gender equity, that is, all genders are equal, not identical. It acknowledges that women are biologically different from men, and require affirmative action to accommodate a practical need during menstruation. It is a concession for days when women on their periods find it difficult to sit through eight-hour shifts at the workplace due to cramps, bleeding, and other associated uneasiness. Simply put, period leave is comparable to maternity benefits for women, and if implemented well, this progressive policy can make the workplace gender-friendly.

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