In the last few years, menstruation has been increasingly discussed in the workplace. Some women are still not comfortable speaking openly about their periods, but it's no longer considered taboo. This section will cover various different countries and their discussions on menstrual policies in the workplace.
After World War II, Japan became the first country in the world to allow menstrual leave. The law stipulates that if it is difficult to work due to abdominal pain, back pain, headache, etc. during menstruation, you can take a day off. Meanwhile, there is no limit to the number of days or orders a person can be paid.
South Korea has introduced a menstrual leave policy since 2001, and according to Article 71 of the Labour Standards Act of the Republic of Korea, all women are entitled to one day of menstrual leave each month. It also guarantees extra charges for not taking menstrual leave.
In 2016, China's Anhui province introduced a new rule giving women suffering from severe menstrual cramps one or two days off each month. However, it was not the first Chinese state to introduce such a provision. The menstrual leave system has already been introduced in Shanxi and Hubei provinces.
In Zambia, talking about menstruation is taboo. That is why in this country such a day is called "Mother's Day". But such taboos do not prevent the country from giving women one day (yearly) of menstrual leave as "Mother's Day". Legal action can be taken against companies that don't give Mother's Day time off - although companies often complain that the time off reduces productivity. However, Zambia is very strict about the legitimacy of such claims.
Italy is known for its female-friendly labour laws. Every worker is given five months of compulsory maternity leave and receives 80% of their salary during this period. Neither employees nor employers can do without it. In addition, there are also six months of voluntary parental leave, during which both parents are paid 30% of their salary.
We still have a long way to go.
Western countries such as Italy, Chile and Mexico and some Australians are advocating paid menstrual leave, given that Asian countries are clearly leading the way in adopting and implementing women-friendly labour policies. The concept of menstrual leave should be perceived as empowering rather than a discriminatory concept.
Policies that recognise women's health and well-being can go a long way toward empowering women, especially in countries where problems such as menstruation are prevalent. Therefore, the fight against "menstrual taboos, injustices and discrimination" must take place on several fronts. Legislation, a change of mindset, and ensuring the availability of affordable menstrual products are possible solutions to this far-reaching problem and are applied only when necessary.
Upgrading Women took up a pro-bono client of four young women in London who started Project Period. We help them plan a strategy to raise funds to provide menstrual cups for girls in Kenya so they don't have to miss school on the week they have their period. Check out their website if you want to pitch in too!