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Girls & Women

Italy Mulls Over Paid Menstrual Leave to Women, But Practice Stirs Debate

Italy is considering requiring three days of paid leave every month for women “who experience painful periods.” 

The measure was introduced to Parliament by four female lawmakers, and a draft bill is currently being debated in Italy’s parliament, reports the Washington Post. The law would apply to women who experience severe pain during menstrual cycles, and would require a doctor to sign off each year. 

Italy is not the first country to do this. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Zambia, and Indonesia all have measures in place that offer paid time off for menstrual leave. A company in the United Kingdom, Coexist, also plans to introduce a policy after a study showed women were more creative and productive after menstruation. 

Read More: Zambia Gives Women One Day of Menstrual Leave Each Month, But Not Everyone Is Happy About It

The idea itself, offering women compensated time off for menstrual pain, has been largely debated among feminists. 

Some say that it is a progressive step forward in policy-making, and one that would give women more freedom in the workplace. 

Italian Marie Claire magazine weighed the policy calling the idea a “concept-bearer of progress and social sustainability.”

“For too long there’s been a taboo surrounding periods – I have women staff telling me they’re ashamed to admit they’re in pain. I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity,” said Coexist director Bea Baxter. “Both men and women have been open to the ideas, especially from the younger generation.” 

On the flipside of the crimson tide debate, opponents argue it could aggravate negative stereotypes about menstruation and employers could easily turn the policy against women. 

“Employers, in a market already affected by other variables, would be targeted to choose to hire men and not women, with equal qualifications and skills,” said Lorenza Pieuteri in Donna Moderna, a modern women’s publication in Italy. 

Pieuteri is not wrong to worry. Italy has one of the worst disparities in the EU for hiring women, and is ranked 114 of 144 countries for working women in the 2016 Global Gender Gap report

The average workforce percentage for women in EU countries is 72.9%, Italy, in comparison only has 65% of its women engaged in the economy according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Japan, which has had paid menstrual leave since 1947, has the opposite problem. Japan has more working women. Nearly 76% of women age 15-64 work, but the country has a gender wage gap of 26%

Read More: One Talented Nepali Teenager Has Written a Novel to Break the Taboo Around Periods

And in Japan, women fear utilizing the policy because gender stereotypes are still rampant in the workplace, according to the Guardian. 

“If you take menstrual leave, you’re basically broadcasting to the entire office which days of the month you have your period,” Kyoko, who wished to keep her full identity anonymous, said. “It’s not the sort of thing you want to share with male colleagues, and it could lead to sexual harassment.”

Looks like the Italian parliament will have a lot to consider before making a final decision.