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Spain may become Europe’s first country to offer paid menstrual leave

“In theory, if you have a painful period, you should be as entitled as any other illness,” People who menstruate often suffer from period pain which has a huge influence on their ability to work which is why there is a discussion about paid menstrual leave for workers in Spain.

Imagine you are in immense pain but you still have to go to work and accomplish the same tasks as you normally would. 

That’s what sick days are for right?

Now imagine that you know this will happen to you three days every single month. Your sick days just won’t cut it.

That is the situation faced by many people who experience painful cramps during menstruation. 

Since many suffer from period pain and it is a serious disadvantage for menstruating people, the Spanish government has approved a draft bill that would make it possible for people who menstruate to take three days off if they suffer from severe period pain. 

Menstrual leave is currently only offered in a small number of countries including South Korea and Indonesia, so Spain would be the first European country to offer menstrual leave.

“In theory, if you have a painful period, you should be as entitled as any other illness,” Caroline Hickson, the regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network said. 

“It’s really about the normalization of something so simple, so basic — that for years has been such a source of shame and stigma, embarrassment.”

In 2016 the Italian government tried to enact its own menstrual leave law but after two years without making any progress they gave up. Since many opponents thought that this law would backfire and harm women as companies hiring in general more men than women. With the new law they might consider that the woman would potentially be available for less work each month and would therefore rather hire the man.

Even before the Spanish bill was presented there was already tension and disagreements in the Spanish government. The reason for the disagreement is that the menstrual leave law is expensive because of certain additional elements it includes. Besides the paid menstrual leave, the bill also includes free tampons and pads offered to students and people in marginalized situations. Furthermore, tampons and pads will be tax-free.

Another aspect of the law that may influence how lawmakers vote on it is stipulation that 16 and 17 year olds will have access to abortions without needing their parents consent if the bill passes.

Opinions concerning the menstrual leave law are divided. Opponents point out that menstrual leave may have negative impacts on the people who use it. Right now women are experiencing discrimination andreduced pay just because they are women and the menstrual leave law could influence this and even increase the rate of discrimination. 

One opponent tells Forbes magazine, “I don’t want a law that presents the period as an illness and might even convince more men not to employ more women and hence further reduce our opportunities in the workplace.”

“I really don’t understand why we need this new law when there are now so many options available for most women to avoid suffering the kind of debilitating pain that could make it impossible for them to work,” said Hortensia García Briz, a gynecologist in Madrid.

“I think that the feminist movement in this country has been pushing things to the extreme and out of context, which is not actually helpful to women,”   Hortnsia Garcia Briz added. “I believe that the aim should be precisely to demystify a woman’s period as something that needs to be painful, and make it clear instead that gynecology has already designed many products to make it comfortable.”

However, there are many supporting it. “By supporting women with these policies,” a supporter of the menstrual leave law says to 8forty, “you empower them to actually want to be at work and to put their best forward.”

Cover Image: Naomi Hsu

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