SC junks menstrual leave PIL, says could discourage women's hiring
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a mandate to all states to frame rules regarding menstrual leaves in educational institutions and workplaces. Chief Justice (CJI) DY Chandrachud observed that such a mandate could discourage employers from hiring women. However, he allowed the petitioners to file a representation before the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
Why does this story matter?
- Menstruation, also known as periods, is the monthly vaginal bleeding that women experience, which can have an impact on their physical and emotional health. Individual pain levels vary and can impede women's productivity. In India, there is no legal infrastructure that allows women to take menstrual leave.
- However, some companies, such as Byju's, Zomato, and Culture Magazine, offer this benefit to their female employees.
PIL demanded similar provisions across states
The bench of CJI Chandrachud and Justices PS Narsimha and JB Pardiwala heard the petition filed by Advocate Shailendra Mani Tripathi, which argued that women were being treated differently in different states of India in the name of federalism. This differential treatment is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which promises equality before the law as a fundamental right, the petition argued.
Spain approved law concerning menstrual leaves last week
The PIL said that women suffer from physiological and health issues during their menstrual cycles. Since they have the citizenship of India and not individual states, they should be granted equal rights across the country. It also stated that the UK, China, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Zambia provide menstrual leaves in some form, with Spain being the latest addition to the list.
Plea alleged lack of legislative will
The bench observed that the matter is beyond the court's purview and falls in the domain of policy. The petition highlighted a lack of legislative will, citing the Menstruation Benefits Bill, 2017, which was tabled in Parliament on the first day of the Budget Session in 2022. The Assembly discarded the Bill, calling it an "unclean" topic, the petition argued.
Apt provisions present in Maternity Benefit Act, 1961: Petition
The PIL stated that in 2018, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor introduced the Women's Sexual, Reproductive, and Menstrual Rights Bill, proposing that public authorities should provide sanitary pads free of cost on their premises. The plea also mentions the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 which regulates the employment of women for a certain period before and after delivery while providing maternity and other benefits.