WATCH: Should women be entitled to period leave? Jamaicans give their views

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The question of whether women should be entitled to menstruation leave has become a sparkling debate since the issue was raised by the principal of the Glenmuir High School in Clarendon earlier this month.

At an International Women’s Day ceremony, Dr Marsha Smalling reportedly urged the Government to adopt a paid period leave policy similar to some other countries, arguing that women struggle during their cycles and find it difficult to carry out their jobs effectively during the period.

OBSERVER ONLINE took the streets in the Corporate Area on Monday to hear the views of Jamaicans on the matter. There were mixed opinions, with some believing that paid leave during menstruation was necessary, while making reference to the severity of a woman’s cycle, while others were against the idea.

Attorney-at-law Isat Buchanan said menstrual leave is to be considered in Jamaica, as many women are unable to carry out their duties productively during that time of the month.

“My take on women receiving menstrual leave is two-part. At first glance, one would say no, but when you assess the situation critically, it is something that is necessary because there are some women, who experience irregular period, period pains and as a result of that, it can be necessary,” Buchanan said, adding that there are some women who are suffering on the job because of their cycles.

“If you have an employer that has to spend a significant amount of time in the sick bay or in the bathroom without having to explain it to you, it’s in and of itself would tell you that increase in productivity could actually come off they were to do necessities from home, but certainly to allow the menstrual leave. I would be in favour of it,” he added.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the menstrual cycle is the monthly series of changes a woman's body goes through in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. Each month, one of the ovaries releases an egg — a process called ovulation. At the same time, hormonal changes prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If ovulation takes place and the egg is not fertilised, the lining of the uterus sheds through the vagina. This is a menstrual period.

However, some cycles are accompanied by common problems such as heavy or painful periods, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which forms numerous small cysts on the ovaries.

National Workers Union General Secretary, Granville Valentine suggested that the focus should not be just on menstrual leave, but to implement policies that will accommodate workers, both men and women, who are affected by any illness in the workplace.

“Most women don’t necessarily need that [menstrual leave]...Some men are troubled with sinusitis and if they are in certain conditions, whether it’s just to mop etc, then it triggers something. So, I am for people. I believe that anything that affects any worker, man or woman, then we should make necessary provisions for them,” Valentine told OBSERVER ONLINE, while noting that the majority of the workforce is made up of women and that they have continued to produce excellently.

“You will have to deal with it as per occasion or the type of cases because people will respond in different ways. It’s no different from a man who suffers from migraine headaches from time-to-time. So, we will just have to identify where that situation exists and treat it with privacy and the greatest of respect,” he said.

In February, the Spanish parliament approved legislation, making Spain the first country in Europe that will entitle workers to paid menstrual leave. Some women now have the option to take their monthly menstrual leave for three to five days.

Asia has particularly been progressive in the matter, with Japan having a period leave policy for more than 70 years. South Korea adopted the policy in 1953, while provinces and companies in China and India are reportedly increasingly adopting menstruation leave policies with a broad range of entitlements.

ATHENA CLARKE , Observer Online reporter,

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