This article was originally published on Feminism in India and re-published here with their permission

“Several provinces in China now have laws in place to ensure women can take a day or two a month off work if they suffer from period pain. Event’s organiser Churn Zheng regularly takes menstrual leave, and says it is an essential option for every woman.”

Ever since this opinion piece was published by BBC, social media is abuzz with a ton of opinions about the issue of menstrual leaves. I mean honestly, you throw something like Menstruation and don’t expect a response?

Apparently, everyone with or without a uterus (I’m taking a risk here) has something to say about periods. Menstruation and women’s reproductive organs is the most hotly debated topic on social media waves. You just have to Google it to know exactly how divided people are on the topic- from abortion to periods- everyone has something to say about what women should or should not feel/do.

There are several responses on Facebook too, some of which are just as mind-numbing as I thought they would be. I mean, people commenting how women who need a day off for period pains should just stay home or that if an organization ‘allows’ them a leave, then it should be unpaid as it’s not productive.

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Now, where have I heard that before? Oh right! Almost every time there is a discussion around women’s reproductive system.

A similar debate was sparked a few months ago over maternity leave and there were several people (men and women) who went on a Facebook rampage on how that is thoroughly unprofessional and unproductive to provide maternity care for working women. A male colleague once made a comment at work to a pregnant colleague that his gall stones were just as painful as her giving birth and yet he doesn’t take 90 days off to care for it.  *bangs head on wall*

It is alarming that women are defensive and feel threatened by admitting a vulnerability which is natural, whereas men are going hoarse at the idea of such policies because they feel that it’s a privilege denied to them.

Why is it that if there is a physical impact on women based on their bodily function that it’s treated as a threat or privilege? If we fall sick (like fever or body aches or cold or somehow hurt ourselves etc.) don’t we accept that as normal and take leave to recover? Why should a woman taking a day off for period pain be any different? Just because 50% of the world’s population experiences menstruation doesn’t mean that the level of its impact on everyone would be the same.

Period pains are widely recognized by the medical industry and there is finally some research around it. I remember reading an article which talked about the severity of period pains. John Guillebaud, professor of reproductive health at University College London, says cramping can be as “bad as having a heart attack.” Any woman who suffers severe period cramps would agree to this comparison. It feels like your guts are pulled out and twisted into a knot and your entire body is on fire. The only solution is an over the counter paracetamol and if you are allergic to this drug then endure it the old-fashioned way.

This is neither regressive nor progressive –I don’t really care if you call this a sick leave or a menstrual leave. Every human being has the option to avail a leave as their basic human right. Each person is different and their body reacts differently (that goes for men and women) thus who takes a sick day, be it for cold or for period pains, shouldn’t be up for debate.

img_1722-150x150Author: Vidhi R Chandra

Vidhi is a blogger and hopeless portmanteau-er. You will find me practicing fake acceptance speeches for Pulitzer, Grammy, Oscars all at once almost daily and when I’m not frightening people with my strange ways, I’m most likely discussing shoes, books, movies, politics, food or women’s issues.

This article was originally published on Feminism in India and re-published here with their permission

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