Menstrual leave and the gender equality debate

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced on social media on January 19 that the state government will provide menstrual leave to female students at all state universities under the Department of Higher Education.


  • The announcement came shortly after the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) decided to grant menstrual leave to all female students in response to a student union petition.
  • Vijayan described the decision as part of the government’s commitment to achieving a gender-just society. The government’s claim should spark a larger debate.

What is Menstruation?

  • Menstruation, also known as a period, is the normal vaginal bleeding that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly cycle.
  • It is a normal stage of development for girls and women who have reached puberty.
  • Every month, the body of a girl or woman prepares for pregnancy.
  • If no pregnancy occurs, the body eliminates the uterine lining.
  • Menstrual blood is made up of blood and tissue from inside the uterus.
  • A period can last anywhere from 3 to 7 days depending on the individual.

What is the concept behind menstrual leave?

  • Paid time off: Menstrual leave refers to a policy that allows women to take paid time off from work or school during their menstrual cycle.
  • Allows for rest: This leave is specifically for menstruating women and is intended to allow them to rest and manage symptoms such as cramps and fatigue, which can be particularly severe for some women.
  • Getting rid of the stigma: Menstrual leave is intended to help reduce the stigma associated with menstruation and to recognise it as a normal and natural bodily process.

Debate over the mandatory Period leave


  • Recognizing the pain and discomfort: Making period leave available to students and, in the future, women in the workforce could be a significant step toward acknowledging and addressing the often-debilitating pain and discomfort that so many are forced to work through.
  • Will contribute to more inclusive workplaces: Implementing paid time off would contribute to more inclusive workplaces and classrooms.
  • Reducing the stigma of menstruation: Making menstrual leave official can help to reduce the stigma of menstruation and acknowledge that it is a normal and natural bodily process.
  • Allowing women to take time off during their menstrual period allows them to return to work or school more refreshed and better able to focus on their responsibilities, which can lead to increased productivity.


  • The context in which such policy decisions are made is important: In a traditional society like India, where menstruation is still a taboo subject, a special period leave could become another reason for discrimination.
  • South Korea and Japan are not encouraging examples of similarly traditional societies: Both countries have period leave laws, but recent surveys show a decline in the number of women taking advantage of it, citing the social stigma associated with menstruation.
  • There is also the risk of medicalizing a normal biological process, which could further entrench existing biases against women.
  • Mandatory leaves may make it more difficult to hire women: The perceived financial and productivity costs of mandatory period leaves may make employers even more hesitant to hire women.
  • Reinforcing gender stereotypes: Providing menstrual leave may reinforce the stereotype that women are weaker and less capable than men, which may have long-term negative consequences for women.

@the end

The ongoing discussion about menstrual leave and menstrual health is important and welcome. It’s also encouraging to see governments recognise the significance of this issue. However, making menstrual leave a legal requirement presents its own set of difficulties. It is critical for governments to navigate these challenges while maintaining the ultimate goal of gender justice and equality.

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