Spain’s menstrual leave law is significant

The law is the first of its kind in Europe, sparking hope that other countries may follow suit


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Spanish Parliament meets. Earlier this month, Spain passed the first menstrual leave law in Europe.

Lourdes Lopez, Staff Columnist

Many women endure all of the terrible symptoms associated with a menstrual cycle every month. However, in Spain, women now have the choice to take their monthly menstrual leave for three to five days if their periods are associated with painful and unbearable manifestations.

For those who experience incapacitating menstrual symptoms, which can consist of severe cramps, nausea, dizziness and even vomiting, the law grants the right to a three-day “menstrual” leave of absence with the option of extending it to five days. A doctor’s note is necessary for the leave, and the public social security system will cover the cost. This kind of aid is being promoted for the first time by a European nation. Sixteen and 17-year-olds may also obtain an abortion without their parents’ permission under this legislation. This kind of legislation shows a huge initiative toward women’s menstrual and sexual health that will hopefully prompt other countries to follow their example. Periods can be debilitating and draining, so this law is helping women gain a voice for the pain and struggles they have to face every month. 

The new law received 154 of the 185 votes in the parliament. The government reported that this legislation had received support from the majority of voters. However, the Spanish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology disagrees with the law, noting that only about one-third of women experience exceptionally painful periods.  

However, it is a fact that for 3-5 days each month, many women experience some form of pain during their menstrual cycle, which can affect their personal and professional lives. Spain’s equality minister, Irene Montero, told the legislature that women cannot be full citizens without the right to a leave of absence due to menstrual discomfort. She also believes that this choice is significant for the health of women. According to Montero, “the period will stop being a taboo” and a health issue that has gone unrecognized up until now.

But several organizations have expressed objection to this reasoning. The UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores), Spain’s largest labor union, has criticized the plan. The group claims that this law may stigmatize women in the workplace. Some feminist organizations have also reacted cautiously, arguing that although it is good that women with painful periods can take days off, limiting themselves to offering a few days off each month without following it up with measures leading to treatment or attention is not going to solve the problem. Other critics find that the amount of time is insufficient for women who suffer from painful periods and illnesses like endometriosis.

The fact that a law has finally been established to address the problem of periods in the workplace is significant. It is obvious that it affects their professional lives and demonstrates that work environments are not designed for women of reproductive age. Although this legislation has positive intentions, numerous undetected conditions affect women, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this issue. Nonetheless, this is a momentous step in the right direction for women’s reproductive health and well-being.  

Hopefully, this new law will cause other countries and organizations to take further action in this area, including increased attempts to educate people about menstruation and the importance of rest for women’s reproductive health.