Barkha Dutt sparks tweet war after opposing 'period leave' policy

Zomato recently made headlines after announcing that it would implement a new 'period leave' scheme for its female and transgender employees. Under this initiative, all women working with the organisation would be entitled to 10 days of period leave in a year.

"There shouldn't be any shame or stigma attached to applying for a period leave. You should feel free to tell people on internal groups, or emails that you are on your period leave for the day," Zomato Founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal said in a blog post.

At the same time, he urged male colleagues to normalise the topic. "Our female colleagues expressing that they are on their period leave shouldn't be uncomfortable for us," Goyal noted.

While many have hailed the move as a massive step forward, others remain critical. Well known journalist Barkha Dutt on Tuesday took to Twitter stating that was a bad idea.

"Sorry Zomato, as woke as your decision on #PeriodLeave is, this is exactly what ghettoizes women and strengthens biological determinism. We cannot want to join the infantry, report war, fly fighter jets, go into space, want no exceptionalism and want period leave. PLEASE," she tweeted.

Dutt's comments seem to have sparked a war of words on Twitter. While many agreed to politely disagree, others still were harshly critical of her comments.

"Period experiences are different for different women and no one person can speak for all. Those who suffer from extreme forms of it, and have for years, we didn't choose this. The burden of not being discriminated against should not be on us," read one comment.

"The experience of one woman is not the experience of ALL women. At the end of the day, denying women choices + liberty to make those choices is what #misogyny is all about. The same rationale you've used here @BDUTT has been used to criticise paid maternity leave as well," said another.

The debate seems to have several aspects to it. While some people cite the painful and at times debilitating experience that is menstruation, others noted that this was a subjective topic and weighed in out how it would affect their professional lives.

"Disagree. Period pain varies across women and across months for many women. A leave isn't a cop out but an opportunity to perform at optimal best. More than anything it's the company's way to signal that they care. It's not forced - it's a policy, an opportunity," wrote one user.

This does however raise the question of where exactly one should draw the line. Rationally speaking, both Dutt and her critics have a point to make. "Can't claim period leave in the middle of war for gods sake," Dutt wrote in response to a Twitter user who had said that "anatomical differences" shouldn't be a barrier for work opportunities.

"We are asking for the right to exercise a choice to take a period leave if we want to, join the forces if we wish to. Don't decide on our behalf is all we ask.. Someone in the comments pointed out, by this logic anyone asking for maternity leave, should not join the forces," countered one user.

Another factor is that as with issues such as maternity leaves, this could make some opportunities increasingly more unavailable to women. "It will shut many doors women are still trying to break down and trust me the moment you claim period leave those doors will remain shut and I'd shut them too for someone who thinks this is a good reason for time off," Dutt explained to one user.

Speaking of her own personal experiences, Barkha said that she had covered the Kargil war while on her period, taking medicines and using toilet paper in place of sanitary napkins.

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