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Women Offered Unlimited 'Menstrual Leave' Every Month in Spain

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By Josh Piers - - 5 Mins Read
The Spanish government is expected to approve a broad reform measure next week that will modernize the country's rules on menstruation and reproductive health. If implemented, the measure would allow menstruating women to take up to three days of leave every month if they are experiencing severe period discomfort, making Spain the first Western country to do so. Menstrual leave is currently granted in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Zambia, although no European country had done so until today. Menstrual leave is not recognized in Canada or the United States. According to a study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, 60 percent of Canadians who menstruate fulfill the criteria for primary dysmenorrhea, or significant menstrual discomfort (PD). Menstrual pain curtailed 51 percent of women's activities, and 17 percent missed school or work, according to the study. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, PD symptoms include abdominal pain, headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. [caption id="attachment_10399" align="alignnone" width="746"] Spain would become the first country in Europe to allow workers to take menstrual leave.[/caption] "Just as someone with a severe disease is granted a temporary incapacity, so a woman with a particularly painful period should be allowed to stay at home," said Angela Rodrguez, Spain's secretary of state for equality. “It’s important to be clear about what a painful period is — we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and bad headaches,” Rodríguez told El Periodico newspaper. “When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave.” Other measures to improve menstruation health are included in the reform bill, which is anticipated to be ratified at next Tuesday's cabinet meeting. The measure proposes providing free sanitary pads to students and those who are marginalized, as well as eliminating the government's sales tax on pads and tampons. According to Rodriguez, "one in four women in Spain cannot choose the feminine hygiene products she wishes to buy due to budgetary constraints." As a result, we advise that they be freely distributed at educational and social facilities." After months of lobbying by lawmakers and advocates, Canada eliminated the federal sales tax on sanitary items in 2015. [caption id="attachment_10400" align="alignnone" width="854"] Spain's secretary of state for equality, Angela Rodriguez[/caption] The Spanish government also intends to eliminate the need that 16 and 17-year-olds to obtain parental consent before having an abortion, and to ensure abortion access at public hospitals. Some Spanish residents have found it difficult to terminate pregnancies due to opt-out regulations for doctors who refuse to perform abortions if no providers in their area provide abortions. The proposed bill would create an official registry for medical personnel who do not want to participate in abortions. “The voluntary termination of a pregnancy will be guaranteed in all public hospitals. For that to happen, all centers with obstetrics and gynaecology services will need to have staff who guarantee the right to voluntary termination of a pregnancy. We will scrupulously respect the right to conscientious objection and we will make it thoroughly compatible with women’s right to decide when it comes to their bodies,” said Spain’s equality minister, Irene Montero. Menstrual leave, according to one bill opponent, may have detrimental consequences for those who utilize it. Cristina Antoanzas, deputy secretary of the UGT labor union, told Sky News that the move will "stigmatize women." "It's a disservice to women," she said. Advocates in Canada have long called for a national menstrual leave program. The firm that makes the Diva Cup, a low-waste menstrual cup, became the first in the country to offer employees paid time off for period pain in 2021. Last year, some local Spanish governments in the Catalonia and Castellon regions, embraced the idea and offered staff menstrual leave. Only a small number of countries offer menstrual leave including Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Zambia and Indonesia.