A company called Culture Machine in Mumbai, India recently implemented a “First Day of Period” policy, an initiative that gives women the first day of their monthly cycles off. The program is aimed at making the workplace more women-friendly. While the existence of such a provision is definitely a progressive move, some still find the subject rather sensitive – even women themselves aren’t comfortable with the idea of “broadcasting” to the entire office which days of the month they have their periods.

Taboo and stigma, the main issues around menstruation

Primary dysmenorrhea – menstrual pain to most – affects around 40 to 70 percent of menstruating women around the world, according to Research Gate. The figures basically mean that almost all women experience this kind of pain, and yet many still choose to discuss it in private.

In the United States, a study conducted in 2013 found that 6 out of 10 women still find it embarrassing to reveal “it’s the time of the month” for when they have to take a leave of absence, which makes it evident why women don’t want to even discuss Menstrual Leave. Given there are now more women in the workforce, it’s surprising why period leave still hasn’t been implemented in many companies, although, we might be heading in that direction, albeit still being debated.

Is period leave sexist?

First day is obviously a not-so-comfortable day for most. It’s time we face the reality. This is not an embarrassment. This is part of life,” said Devleena S Majumder, president of human resources at Culture Machine.

Indian women are now claiming it as a right, and a report by The Guardian in 2016 indicated that some East Asian countries – South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan to name a few – have long implemented the menstrual leave policy.

Further, Italy is on the path to become the first Western country to implement it, according to the International Business Times.

But what about the U.S.? International sportswear company Nike introduced similar menstrual leave for employees in 2007, but such open acknowledgement of menstruation and its impact upon the female body is rare in America, sadly.

Many American women, already apologetic about maternity leave, mumbled in sheer embarrassment as to how this day of leave would make women appear to the world: weak, needy, and that women’s labor force participation is but a futile effort from the very beginning. The issue of menstruation leave has divided opinion, with some saying it is discriminatory or even sexist to allow women extra time off, while others argue it is a medical necessity.

Varying standpoints regarding gender equality and what’s fair for both sexes have long been the cause for debates, but regardless of the impression that paid menstrual leave reinforces damaging stereotypes about women, addressing the struggles that come along with menstruation openly would in fact destigmatize period talk.

It’s a natural part of life, why be ashamed about it?