Published: 23rd January 2023
Menstrual leave for women students: Academicians in Tamil Nadu divided? Here’s what they say
Kerala announced menstrual and maternity leaves for all women students in all institutions under the state government's higher education department
The initiative by the Kerala government to provide menstrual leave for women students in all state-run universities is being lauded by many, but academicians in the state of Tamil Nadu are divided over the issue.
While some say the move will provide immense relief to students who experience pain during their menstrual cycle, others feel that such a special leave will unnecessarily put women in the spotlight and lead to increased gender bias, uncalled discrimination and could also raise questions over their capability, as stated in a report by The New Indian Express.
Here's what academicians say...
V Vasanthi Devi, an educationist and former Vice-Chancellor of Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, appreciated the move by the Kerala government and felt that Tamil Nadu should also consider implementing it in the state. "Definitely; women deserve menstrual leave. It is a fact that women go through a lot of trauma, be it mental or physical during their periods and I think the introduction of period leave is the right way to deal with the issue head on," said Vasanthi Devi, adding, "There should be no stigma attached to it, as every student, by the time they reach college are aware of women's menstrual cycle. And if any stigma exists, it should be wiped out."
However, V Bharathi Harishankar, Vice-Chancellor of Avinashilingam University, a women's university, feels the issue is very complex and needs deeper analysis. "Before implementing period leave in the state, Tamil Nadu should wait and watch the impact, acceptability and success of the initiative in Kerala," she said.
"According to me, the period leave policy is quite ambiguous. For the women who experience discomfort due to various menstrual cycle-related issues, it will be helpful, but I fear that such a leave policy could make women more prone to subtle discrimination. I worry that it should not become another way of demotivating women that they need extra support and compensation," said Harishankar.
Need for open discussions
Avinashilingam University's VC also stressed that instead of granting period leave, measures should be taken to find the root cause of the problem and encourage open discussions about women's health and menstruation hygiene in educational institutions and at workplaces to reduce stigma around these topics.
University of Madras women studies department head M Priyamvadha said it would not be proper to generalise the issue of menstrual pain. "It is important to understand that menstruation is not experienced in the same way by all women who menstruate. Not every woman feels the same intensity of cramps and pain, so generalising the leave is not necessary. Add to it the disclosure of menstrual status to avail leave and may not go well with a section of the student," said Priyamvadha.
She cited that instead of normalising period pain by introducing such a leave, women should be made aware of menstrual hygiene and encouraged to consult a doctor in times of need and measures should be taken to create appropriate facilities like clean toilets, sanitary pad dispensers and resting rooms to make educational institutes and workplace a better place for women.