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Supreme Court to consider petition for menstrual discomfort leave for female students and working women in India

A public interest litigation requesting menstrual discomfort leave for female students and working women across India was accepted by the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud announced that the plea would be listed on February 24 after being mentioned for urgent listing. According to a University College London study, the level of anguish a woman feels during her period is comparable to the anguish a person feels following a heart attack.This is supported by the petition. The petition claims that some Indian businesses, including Ivipanan, Zomato, Byju’s, Swiggy, Mathrubhumi, Magzter, Industry, ARC, FlyMyBiz, and Gozoop, offer paid period leaves. It claims that such pain lowers an employee’s productivity and impacts their work.

The petition further claimed that, according to online research, only Meghalaya had announced the employment of such officers in 2014 and that, as per a 1992 regulation, Bihar was the only state in India to offer specific menstrual pain leave. The petitioner argued that denying women in the remaining states menstrual pain leave or period leave violated their right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.

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The petition further notes that Dr. Shashi Tharoor introduced the Women’s Sexual, Reproductive, and Menstrual Rights Bill in 2018, which advocated that public authorities should make sanitary pads freely available to women on their property. The Menstruation Benefits Bill, 2017, another related bill, was introduced in 2022 on the first day of the budget session, but the Legislative Assembly ignored it since it was an “unclean” subject. According to the petition, this illustrates a lack of legislative motivation to advance the idea of menstrual pain leave.

“Menstrual pain leave is already available in some form or another in the United Kingdom, Wales, China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, Spain, and Zambia. The Delhi High Court ordered the centre and the Delhi government to take the PIL for menstruation leave into consideration as a representation. In a written response submitted to the Lok Sabha, Union Minister Smriti Irani stated that there are currently no menstrual leave provisions in the Central Civil Service (Leave) Rules 1972.

Ahir Mitra
Ahir Mitra

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