New Delhi: The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, will be considering a plea on seeking direction to state governments to frame rules for menstrual pain leaves for female students and working women on February 24.
Advocate Vishal Tiwari mentioned the plea for an urgent hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, who agreed for it to be listed.
The plea, filed by advocate Shailendra Mani Tripathi, said: "Few states provided menstrual pain leaves and ancillary benefits, women in their counterpart states are still bereft of any such benefits. It is accordingly a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution inasmuch as the Maternity Benefit Act differentiates women in the name of federalism and state policies."
The plea contended that Bihar introduced menstrual leave for women employees in 1992, however, menstrual periods have been largely disregarded by society, government, and other stakeholders though some organisations and states have taken notice of it.
The plea pointed out that several companies, especially startups, in India, are offering period leave, even without any legal obligation.
It further added that despite women suffering from similar physiological and health issues during their menstrual cycles, they are being treated differently in different states of India.
The plea cited that the UK, China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, Spain, and Zambia, are already providing menstrual pain leave in one form or another
It further added that the Clinical Evidence Handbook pointed out that 20 percent of women suffered from symptoms like cramps, nausea, etc., that are debilitating enough to hamper daily activities.
The plea said according to research by the University College London, the pain female experiences while menstruating is equivalent to the pain a person experiences during a heart attack.
Education Ministry denied plans for menstrual leaves
Union Minister of Education Subhas Sarkar told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that the Education Ministry is not considering any leave on the basis of menstruation in educational institutions across India.
"No such proposal is under consideration in the ministry," Sarkar stated in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha on providing menstrual leaves, on February 6.
Sarkar cited directives by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and University Grants Commission (UGC) on the hygiene needs of students, who are going through their menstruation cycle.
While the UGC developed "Guidelines for Basic facilities and amenities for a safe, secure environment for Women and Women Cell (for sensitization, policy implementation, monitoring, and grievance redressal) in HEIs," which maintains clean, fully functioning separate restrooms equipped with 24-hour tap water supply, soap, covered dustbins, sanitary pad disposal bins, and vending machines in all its buildings, AICTE had issued an advisory to approved institutions on promoting menstrual health of adolescent girls by ensuring the availability of quality sanitary napkins through sanitary napkins vending machines and ensuring safe and environmentally friendly disposal of a used one through sanitary napkins incinerators.
Kerala leaves behind other states in menstrual policies
The Kerala government is set to provide menstrual leaves to female students at state-funded institutions, which are under the Department of Higher Education.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA and former Maharashtra Minister Jitendra Awhad had also urged the state government to grant menstrual leaves to female students and employees.
"I request @mieknathshinde and @Dev_Fadnavis that the Kerala government has taken a decision to give leave during menstruation. This is a very commendable matter. Maharashtra government should also take a similar decision for the students, women government employees of our state,” Awhad said in a tweet.
Inputs from IANS
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