Zomato’s ‘period leave’ policy triggers debate among Indian women

Food delivery company to give female employees up to 10 days of paid leave per year for menstruation.

UKRAINE - 2020/05/02: In this photo illustration a Zomato logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Founded in 2008, Zomato is one of the world's largest food aggregating companies with operations in 24 countries [Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images]

An Indian company’s new policy to give its female employees paid “period leave” has sparked a debate, polarising women in a country where menstruation is still considered a taboo.

Food delivery company Zomato is the most high profile organisation to institute the policy in India, allowing women and transgender people up to 10 days off per year as part of an effort to combat what it said was stigma around the issue.

“There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma attached to applying for a period leave,” Zomato chief executive Deepinder Goyal said in a note to staff on Saturday.

“You should feel free to tell people on internal groups, or emails that you are on your period leave for the day.”

The announcement was welcomed by several women’s rights activists and social media users as a “progressive move that was long overdue”.

“Most women take pain killers and continue working. Some women find it extremely difficult to work during periods. This wont take away from the hard won space that women have gained,” Lavanya Ballal, social media coordinator for the Indian National Congress party, wrote on Twitter.  

Angellica Aribam, founder of Femme First Foundation, a non-profit promoting women’s political leadership in India, said: “Today one might not be able to wrap their head around #PeriodLeave, like many who protested against maternity leave. But someday in the future, it’ll be considered normal and basic.”

Millions of women and girls in the South Asian nation still face discrimination and health challenges because of a lack of awareness surrounding menstruation.

According to the United Nations children’s fund, UNICEF, 71 percent of young women in India remain unaware of menstruation until their first cycle.

In 2018, India’s Supreme Court overturned a decades-long ban on women of menstrual age entering the Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala, leading to a nationwide debate about women’s rights.

Meanwhile, Zomato’s decision has also angered some women, who called the move discriminatory and anti-feminist. 

“The other thing hideous about the idea of period leave is how it turns a normal biological experience into some sort of monumental event, gendering us at the work place when we have fought so hard to not be gendered,” prominent journalist Barkha Dutt said. 

This is not the first time such a policy has been introduced in India. 

Other companies, like the Cultural Machine and Gozoop, allow their employees to take a leave on the first day of their periods. 

In the eastern state of Bihar, female goverment employees are given two extra days off for periods.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies