Following an online petition that quickly reached the number of signatures required, the Luxembourg parliament will have to discuss the possibility of establishing a menstrual leave two-day monthly for workers subject to painful menstruation. In practice, if the proposal were accepted, “the leave would allow women not to be obliged to submit a certificate of incapacity for work due to menstruation every month, thus no longer assimilating it to illness or other causes of absence from work He explains Bianca Nalbandian, researcher in international economic law at the universities of Luxembourg and Turin.
The reactions to the petition were not uniform. There are those, for example, who saw in the measure «a step forward towards one gender equality in the workplace as well as effective protection of all those women silently suffering from dysmenorrhea and endometriosis ».
Others, on the other hand, have advanced some doubts. «It was found that the financing of this leave could be problematic as an automatic absence of each employee for two days a month would result, according to the Union des Enterprises Luxembourgois (UEL), the loss of 10% of the workforce. More generally, menstrual leave has been accused of being a “paternalistic” measure, based on an idea of biological determinism rather than on a real desire to advance women’s rights ».
The subjective impact of the menstrual cycle
Those who have not experienced the psychophysical changes that the menstrual cycle causes, can hardly guess the reasons for such a petition. The impact on the balance of a worker can be very variable, both “in terms of duration, from about 3-4 days to 6-7 days, and in quantity: in fact, there are women who have scarce flows and others that are very abundant. 22.5-35% of women consider their flow to be abundant and most feel it as painful ”explains a specialist in gynecology and obstetrics. “Some women have no major symptoms but for others, menstruation can cause a crampy or dull and constant pain, which may radiate to the legs and which can interfere with daily life up to inducing, in about 5-15% of cases, the woman to stay at home from school or work. Other frequent symptoms are headache, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, low back pain and increased urination, while vomiting occurs occasionally. There may also be psychosomatic disorders: depressed mood, fatigue, nervousness ».
Menstrual leave in Italy and around the world, between public and private initiatives
In 2016, a similar law proposal was also presented in our country. In the text drawn up by the deputies Mura, Sbrollini, Iacono and Rubinato, there were some important data: “60 to 90% of women suffer during the menstrual cycle and this causes rates of 13% to 51% of absenteeism at school and from 5% 15% of absenteeism in work “.
The proposal then did not achieve the hoped-for success, effectively leaving “the Italian legal situation unaltered. Nonetheless, the debate in Italy has recently been revived by a collection of signatures launched through the portal Change.org aimed at the adoption by the Italian Parliament of a law on menstrual leave, also taking up the aforementioned bill no. 3781 of 2016 »continues Nalbandian. “While the absence of a law on menstrual leave in Italy would seem to be in line with the European trend, paid menstrual leave is a measure already recognized in many overseas countries” (which ones? gallery).
Not only that, beyond public measures, some private realities have moved on this front. “Companies such as Nike, Coexist and Zomato have adopted measures for the protection of their employees by recognizing, for example in the specific case of Zomato, the paid leave of 10 days a year for dysmenorrhea”.
This is an important signal that «demonstrates how menstrual leave can be introduced into national legal systems and implemented by private companies. In fact, not providing for any specific protection for the menstrual cycle to date, as well as not considering sanitary pads and tampons as basic necessities, begins to sound like an anachronistic (and obscurantist) censorial representation of the female body. The menstrual cycle And a biological fact that differentiates the male gender from the female one and should be treated as such in order to create effective gender equity. To endorse the belief that every woman has the power to “react” to this monthly condition, or alternatively to ask for a day of sick leave, would mean doing exactly the opposite. More precisely, it would mean to root more than a mere erroneous perception of the phenomenon, significantly contributing to the rooting of that cultural and social taboo that has hatefully surrounded the woman’s body for too many centuries, like her menstrual cycle “concludes Nalbandian.