To put an end to a “taboo”, the Spanish left-wing government presented on Tuesday a bill creating a “menstrual leave” for women suffering from painful periods, a first in Europe.
“We are going to be the first country in Europe to introduce a temporary sick leave fully funded by the state for painful and disabling menstruation”, welcomed the Minister for Equality, Irene Montero, at the end of the council. ministers.
“Periods will no longer be taboo. […] It is over going to work with pain” or “gorging on pills” and “hiding our pain”, added the minister, one of the leaders of the radical left party Podemos, partner of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party in the coalition government. She had indicated earlier on public television that this sick leave, which must be signed by the attending physician, “would not have a time limit”; a preliminary version of the bill circulated last week in the Spanish media mentioned a three-day leave that could be extended to five in the event of acute symptoms.
This text will however have to be approved by Parliament, where the government is a minority before it can come into force.
The rare and controversial measure
If the executive obtains the green light from the deputies, Spain will become the first country in Europe – and one of the few in the world – to integrate this measure into its legislation, following the example of Japan, Indonesia, and Zambia, in particular.
“We are moving forward on feminism. Women must be able to decide freely about their lives, “said Pedro Sánchez on Twitter, referring to the bill which also strengthens the right to abortion in the country. In France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, some companies grant such a “menstrual leave” to their employees, but it is not enshrined in law.
In Spain, however, the measure aroused reluctance within the executive itself, among the socialist ministers, but also within the unions. “You have to be careful with this type of a decision,” warned Friday the deputy general secretary of the UGT, one of the two main Spanish unions, Cristina Antoñanzas, saying she was worried about a possible brake on the hiring of women by employers wishing to avoid these absences.
An analysis refuted by Workers’ Commissions (CCOO), the other major Spanish union, which welcomed a major “legislative advance”, likely to “make visible and recognize a health problem hitherto ignored”.
Expand access to abortion
This “menstrual leave” is one of the flagship measures of a broader bill that also plans to strengthen access to abortion in public hospitals, which perform less than 15% of abortions in the country due to massive conscientious objection from physicians.
It must also allow minors aged 16 and 17 to have an abortion without the authorization of their parents, thus reversing an obligation introduced in 2015 by a previous Conservative government. Minors over the age of 16 can have an abortion without their parent’s consent in the majority of EU countries. And in Belgium, Finland, France, Slovenia, Sweden, and Ireland, a girl can do it regardless of her age.
Abortion was decriminalized in Spain in 1985, then legalized in 2010, but abortion remains a right strewn with pitfalls in this country with a strong Catholic tradition.
The text of the government also provides for a strengthening of sex education in schools, as well as the free distribution of contraceptives or menstrual hygiene products in high schools. The Minister for Equality was also in favor of reducing consumption taxes on menstrual hygiene products, from 10% to 4%, but this measure was not retained.
Spain is a country considered one of the pioneers in Europe in terms of feminism since the adoption in 2004 of a law on gender violence. Claiming to be feminist, the Sánchez government has more women (14) than men (9, including the prime minister).