From the Editor’s desk: Period leave? Hell, yeah!

Mathrubhumi, a Malayalam media giant, became the first organisation in the country to grant period leave for all its women employees as of yesterday. One day every month will be granted as period leave for women who wish to use it, which means those women who can make it to work on the days that they are on their period can choose to come. Those who find it difficult can take the day off.

I can’t tell you how progressive this sounds to me. Both men and women have been against the period leave saying it is regressive and shows women to be weak. That it is not unequal to make that allowance for women. I have a simple question. Do men get periods? No. Then our bodies are not equal and therefore the comparison is apples to oranges. Month after month, scores of women power through their periods in order to get to work and do their jobs. Many more power through chores at home to feed their families and keep them comfortable. It is the one thing that affects all women alike -- blood, the great leveller.

Many friends, right from my school days, have periods that leave them faint with pain. Some of them actually pass out because of the intensity of it. I don’t understand how anyone can claim “equal rights” when that is the condition of a woman one a few days month after month. We all know women who pump themselves up with painkillers -- have done so since when they first had their periods -- and make themselves functional. Anyone with a little common sense can tell you that painkillers every month over half a life time cannot be good for a person’s health. After a point, I am told, many of them are immune to the effects of the pain killer.

Period pain can be terrible and even if it is not there are other ways that women’s bodies react to menstruation. I, for one, have mostly comfortable periods. There’s a dull ache and some cramps but the most I can call it is a discomfort. But there are some months when I am entirely and completely unable to get off my bed and do anything. Just getting to the bathroom to brush my teeth exhausts me, and I crash back in bed. On these days, I find I call in sick at work. Because all I want to do is curl up and go to sleep, I am that exhausted. Luckily, I work in an environment where I am not compelled to state reason for my leave. But there are women who work in places with male bosses with whom they aren’t comfortable discussing their period cycle. No surprise that. These things are private for many of us and we are uncomfortable talking about it with superiors, especially if they are men.

And this is the thing that I feel this period leave will do: open up the conversation about menstruation and how it is debilitating for some women. Men need to be able to be comfortable around the conversation about periods and unless we have a space to retreat to, we are never going to be able to bring this up and ask for the space we need. I remember when I was young and my mother told me how women were isolated during their period, I had asked why, entirely astonished because I was capable of doing anything I wanted when I had my period. She told me about the impurity aspect of it but also said that it was probably because that was the only way women would get rest on those days. Because the amount of women took on then, they definitely needed the rest. I wonder why we have forgotten that our bodies need rest; I wonder why we have to keep powering on to prove a point to people who discriminate against women anyway.

I hope, with this move, many more organisations will consider the needs of women who suffer during their period and follow suit. I also wish there was a leave policy for those of us who work at home and could take the day off when we had our period :)

That said, I have a whole bouquet of stories that I am excited for you to read this week. I hope you’ll enjoy them. It’s not very often a mother can say she’s selfish and proud: hear this one out! And this is the one thing all new mums of every generation suffer -- how to get my baby to sleep. Here are five ways. And we keep complaining about mama’s boys right? Here are five reasons why they are almost the best.

Till next week, then.