Menstrual Leave in Workplaces in Pakistan

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Menstrual leave allows women who experience painful menstrual or menopause symptoms an option to either work from home or use several paid-leave days every year. These sick days are included on top of federally mandated paid vacation or sick leave. Menstrual symptoms can vary from woman to woman; some may experience minimal symptoms and discomfort, while others, especially those women diagnosed with endometriosis or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), can suffer from more severe issues. These include but are not limited to cramps, backaches, and migraines. 

Most women chose to push through these symptoms and still show up to work. Women are forced to do so primarily due to the perceived taboo nature of menstruation prevalent in our society. Women also fear society will judge them to be weak in their workplaces. Women already have a tough time being given a fair shot at opportunities in the workplace. The last thing they need is more discrimination. 

Menstrual leave has been implemented in various forms worldwide. For example, the Soviet Union introduced a national policy in 1922, Japan in 1947 and Indonesia in 1948. But it’s still rare in many significant global economies, including Pakistan. However, recently, many workplaces have begun to implement menstrual leave. For example, Spain is now considering granting women a three-day leave each month if they are experiencing severe menstrual pain. 

The stigma surrounding menstruation is still powerful in Pakistan. This stigma stems from the concept of “impurity” in Islam. A woman who is menstruating is exempted from praying and fasting. This impurity is limited to religious rituals and practices and does not cross over to other aspects of daily life. This delusion that a woman is “impure” during that time of the month has given way to further social stigmas. These stigmas are damaging to women’s rights, making her feel guilty for normal bodily functions and ultimately making even the discussion regarding menstruation a taboo topic. 

However, despite this extreme social stigma, one Pakistani firm is paving the ground for menstrual leave in the workplace. Swyft Logistics, a two-year-old tech-based company, has become the first company in Pakistan to introduce a Period Policy. Swyft logistics has a 30% female workforce, who are allowed 12 days of leave in a year. This policy will allow women not to pretend to be sick or face any stigma when it comes to their bodies. 

According to their CEO Muhammad Uns, this policy was put into place to make women more comfortable in the workplace, combat stigma, and end the perception of menstruation as a simple illness. Although Pakistan is far from completely removing the stigma surrounding menstruation and implementing a national menstrual leave policy, this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, other companies and organizations can take from this example. 

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Musa Qaiser
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