By Sola Ogundipe

The Spanish government has  approved a draft bill which grants paid ‘menstrual leave’ for women who suffer from severe period pain. It is the first of such policy to be granted by a European country.

Workers experiencing period pain will have the right to stay home as long as they need. A doctor consultation will be required to estimate the leave period. The state social security system will pay for the medical leave.

The legislation is part of a broader reproductive health reform that is set to also include changes to Spain’s abortion laws. 

However, as with paid leave for other health reasons, a medical doctor must approve the medical incapacity before the leave is granted.

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The proposed legislation is awaiting approval by parliament, and if passed, Spain will become the first Western country to give women ‘menstrual leave’.  Menstrual leave is  offered in a few countries including South Korea, Japan, Zambia and Indonesia.

Under the reform package passed by Spain’s cabinet, schools will be required to provide sanitary products to girls and there will also be changes to the country’s abortion laws.

It will end the requirement for girls aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent before terminating a pregnancy and include measure to boost access to abortion at private hospitals.

It also includes paid leave for pregnant women from week 39 and guarantees the distribution of free menstrual products in public institutions such as schools and health centres.

The draft law also states that surrogate pregnancy, which is illegal in Spain, is a form of violence against women.

It was not clear whether Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government, which has made women’s rights a priority, has enough support in the assembly to pass the bill.

The draft bill has provoked a debate in Spain about whether the paid menstrual leave rule will help or hamper women in the workplace.

But the bottomline is that periods will no longer be taboo.

The draft bill will go to a public hearing before another reading in the Cabinet and a vote in the lower house of Parliament. Observers have said it won’t be presented for a vote in Parliament before the end of the year.

Besides the length of the process, several politicians and unions of different ideologies have expressed reservations about the bill. But there are fears that the regulation could “stigmatise women” and put them at a disadvantage when competing for jobs.

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