The decision would be a first in Europe: in Spain, the left-wing government plans to introduce into law a “menstrual leave” for women suffering from particularly painful menstruation, but the initiative is debated even within the executive and unions. This measure could be included in a bill on abortion aimed at consolidating the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy and reproductive rights, and which should be adopted Tuesday in the Council of Ministers.
“We will recognize in law the right of women who have painful periods to a special (work) stoppage which will be financed by the State from day one”, tweeted Friday afternoon the Minister for Equality, Irene Montero, one of the leaders of the radical left party Podemos, partner of the socialist party in the government of Pedro Sánchez.
It was not known, however, whether the discussions within the executive had really made it possible to reach an agreement between Podemos and the socialist ministers holding the economic portfolios on the exact scope of this “menstrual leave”. According to Spanish media having had access to a provisional version of the bill, drawn up by the Ministry of Equality, the duration of this leave would be three days, with the possibility of extending it by two additional days in the event of acute symptoms. , on the basis of a medical certificate.
“There are women who cannot work and live normally several days a month because they have really painful periods,” said Irene Montero this week. “It is important to clarify what painful periods are: we are not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhea, severe headaches and fever,” said the Secretary of State in early April. in Equality, Ángela Rodríguez, also a member of Podemos.
A few countries have introduced a right to ‘menstrual leave’ into their legislation in recent years, notably in Asia, but so far no European country has done so. In France, a few rare companies do authorize their employees to stop work during their period, but “menstrual leave” does not appear in the law or in collective agreements.
Fears of discrimination in the labor market
Spain would therefore once again be a pioneer in Europe in terms of women’s rights. But the debate is lively, because if the left wing of the government pushes in this direction, certain socialist ministers are reluctant, for fear that such a measure, because of its high cost, will in fact be counterproductive, in “ stigmatizing” women and paradoxically resulting in favoring the recruitment of male employees.
The Minister of the Economy, the socialist Nadia Calviño, thus showed herself reserved. “We are working on several versions of this law”, specified the number two of the government, before warning that “this government will never adopt a measure which stigmatizes women”. The debate also exists within the unions. “You have to be careful with this type of decision”, thus warned on Friday the deputy general secretary of the UGT, one of the two main Spanish unions, Cristina Antoñanzas, who expressed concern about the possible indirect effects of the measure on “women’s access to the labor market”.
“More than leave, what we need is recognition of our disability, in cases where this disability obviously exists,” said Ana Ferrer, head of the Association of Victims of Endometriosis. , who said he feared “discrimination”. An analysis refuted by Workers’ Commissions (CCOO), the other major Spanish union, which welcomed in a press release a major “legislative advance”, likely to “make visible and recognize a health problem hitherto ignored”.
Total elimination of VAT for feminine hygiene products
The establishment of a “menstrual leave” would be a flagship measure of this bill, but would not be the only one. The Ministry of Equality would thus like to include the total abolition of VAT for feminine hygiene products. The text also plans to strengthen access to abortion in public hospitals and to allow minors to abort without the authorization of their parents from the age of 16. Abortion in Spain was decriminalized in 1985, then legalized in 2010, but the termination of pregnancy remains a right strewn with pitfalls in this country with a strong Catholic tradition, where conscientious objection from doctors is massive and where anti-abortion movements are very active.
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