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The dream of paid menstrual leave might become reality

In Spain a bill will be presented to guarantee paid leave during those days of the month

The dream of paid menstrual leave might become reality  In Spain a bill will be presented to guarantee paid leave during those days of the month

Menstruation affects a woman for an average of 2.535 days of her life, and, despite this, it still remains taboo in many cultures and a topic rarely discussed in public debate. Spain, however, is about to take a big step in support of women empowerment and the Menstrual Revolution: introducing paid menstrual leave. A bill on reproductive health and the right to abortion will be presented to the Council of Ministers on Tuesday 17 May 2022. It is dividing public opinion between those who see its proposals as a step towards gender equality in the workplace and those who brand them as mere paternalistic measures. The text includes several points. The first wants to guarantee the right to abortion for all women from the age of sixteen, without parental consent, a very important measure now that in many countries the right to choose is under threat and that in the USA the Supreme Court may challenge the effects of the Roe vs. Wade ruling, which has regulated access to pregnancy termination services since 1973. A large part of the Spanish bill is dedicated to menstrual health with ad hoc measures such as a paid leave of three days during the period that can be extended up to five days for women suffering from dysmenorrhoea, subject to a doctor's certificate. In addition, if the initiative promoted by the Podemos party were to become reality, VAT on feminine hygiene products would be totally eliminated and tampons would be distributed free of charge in schools and to women in excluded situations.

"In our country we have a problem with women's bodies and we have difficulty recognising menstruation as a physiological process that must generate rights. The rights related to menstrual health have never been discussed and this is already a fact. Then there is the issue of the cost of tampons and how one in four women cannot afford them."

Said both Ángela Rodríguez, minister for equality and against gender violence, and Toni Morillas, director of the Women's Institute.

Let us remember that the menstrual cycle is a condition that greatly affects the female population (but trans men, non-binary people and many other identities can also menstruate), from puberty until menopause, for about five to eight days every month, and that the number of women who suffer from severe abdominal pain, headaches and back pain or other ailments is between 60 and 90 percent. 

In Vietnam, Taiwan, China, South Korea and Japan (where it has been in force since 1947!) women already have the right to paid leave during menstrual periods, but Spain would be the first western country to pass such a law. While Luxembourg is thinking about it and recently in France the furniture maker Louis is granting menstrual leave on an experimental basis, in Italy we are still far behind. There was a proposal for such a law in 2016, but it was never approved, only to end up in oblivion. A bit like what happened with the proposal to abolish or at least reduce the Tampon Tax.