• Ananya Misra

'Period' Leave: Women’s Entitlement or a ‘Special Privilege’?

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

These days there have been a lot of opinions that are being shared across the various media outlets in response to Zomato’s new 10 day Period Leave policy for its women employees. While many have lauded it, there have been growing voices of discontent against it, criticizing the policy as being unfeminist, patronizing towards women and reeking of unnecessary gender bias.

I have been reading some of these comments, both the pro and the anti-views and have found one recurrent line of thought among the people who are protesting this policy.

These people’s bone of contention with the policy seems to stem from the idea that we women cannot cry for gender equality and ask for special ‘feminine’ privileges at the same time!

If we want to be given the same rights as men, then we must, mandatorily, face the same set of circumstances and situations, in the exact same way, that a man does!

Being a woman, and a fairly independent one at that (or so I would like to believe), I cannot think of logic more patriarchal than this!

In fact, it is completely counterintuitive to the very concept of equality that they claim to be upholding by denouncing this policy!

The basic idea behind an equal opportunity environment is the ability to make the same set of opportunities available to all the members of the population in that environment irrespective of the various differences in social, economic, biological or geographical situations of the individual members.

The need to aim for an egalitarian society stems from the fact that throughout the ages, time and again, society has proved to be particularly unfair to certain categories of people, prominent among them being women and transgenders, economically weak people, people of different skin colours and castes, people with physical handicaps, people with limited education and so on and so forth.

If this is the problem, can the solution ever be achieved by treating all these different people in the exact same way expecting them to get the fruits of ‘equal opportunities’?

This policy brought about by Zomato is a step in the right direction in bringing workplace inclusivity for women. I have met many women who have especially painful periods where it becomes difficult for them even to get up from the bed.

This leave would definitely be useful for such people.

I have some reservations though about naming it as period leave and Zomato’s alleged policy of the women employees availing these leaves having to publicly declare the private act of menstruation to the entire office in order to avail such leaves. However, overall, I feel the intent is thoughtful and need to be adopted by more corporates.

To all those opposing this policy, I would like to know if they would next say that a woman is not fit for employment since she would usually end up getting married, having babies and getting more family commitments than a man does?

Does taking maternity leave make women any less competent in the workplace? If not, then why does the addition of 10 leave days in a year make people start crying ‘privilege’.

What people term as ‘special privileges’ are mere course corrections that society has been doing to make amends to the gross injustice it has meted out to certain sections of the society for ages untold.

To bring them up to the same level as the rest of the ‘privileged’ society, we would need to continue handing them second chances...

One changed policy at a time.

Any person, irrespective of their gender, sexual orientation, biological features, economic status, caste, colour or religion, needs to be able to feel welcome and comfortable in a progressive society.

So no, I don’t agree that a woman is not fit to be the Prime Minister of India or a space scientist at ISRO or an able Army officer simply because she needs to take 10 extra leaves per year for biological reasons.