Menstrual pain vary on women. Some don't even feel any pain. But the rest suffers from dysmenorrhea or generally known as painful periods. Its usual symptoms include cramps, nausea, heavy bleeding, back pain, or diarrhea. Such pains cause a loss of fatigue and concentration. Yet most women, despite the pain, force themselves to go to the office because menstrual pain is still not included in paid sick leave.
From 195 countries in the world, only five countries have legalized menstrual leave policy. Most of the countries are from Asia (Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) and Africa (Zambia). The policies vary: In Zambia, women can take one day off for period pains and they can rightfully prosecute their employer of the employer denies this policy; in Indonesia, under the Labor Act of 1948, women have a right of two days off; in Japan, under Article 68 of the Labour Standards Law, women can ask for a leave on difficult menstrual period, but the employer is not required to pay the leave; in South Korea, under Article 71 of the Labour Standards Law, women are required to take menstrual leave and are ensured for additional payment if they don’t take the leave they are entitled to; while in Taiwan, their Act of Gender Equality in Employment gives women three days of menstrual leave and is not included as common sick leave.
This has been an ignored issue in labour policies. While other female labour policies such as maternity leave or maternity benefit is a ‘choice’ (as in not every woman is a mother or even want to), the monthly cycle is an inescapable painful biological process. However, the debate on establishing menstrual leave policy is due to how prone it would be for misuse. Women employees could simply take her menstrual leave even when she’s biologically capable of working in full capacity (i.e. not feeling any pain during her monthly cycle, or using the leave for other interests).
The hesitation is also due to the question of whether menstrual leave is medical necessity or discriminatory measure. An extra permission or special treatment on women could aggravate workplace discrimination on women. Question of “next you’ll be asking for paid leaves on pimple breakout?” may pop up. It will only emphasize how women is different, in a more vulnerable way, than men. Now, it is only necessary to create a fair policy without lessening gender equality, because let’s face it: women are different from men. But such differences should not restrict them from opportunities and access for individual development.