The Spanish government is due to approve plans next week that allow women who suffer from severe period pain to take menstrual leave from work for up to three days each month.
Revealed by the radio station Cadena Ser, the draft reform will make Spain the first country in Western Europe to offer guaranteed time off for those experiencing their periods. Currently only Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Zambia grant menstrual leave.
According to the Spanish Gynaecology and Obstetrics Society, around a third of women who menstruate suffer from dysmenorrhea, with symptoms including severe pain. This proportion rises if pre-menstrual pain is also counted.
The reform is set to be passed at next Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, and includes other measures to improve menstrual health, including a requirement for schools to provide sanitary pads, period products to be provided for free to women in marginalised social circumstances, and removing VAT from their sale price in supermarkets.
The Spanish government has also planned to make abortion more widely available by removing the requirement for parental permission for 16 and 17-year-olds, and guaranteeing access to terminations in public hospitals. It recently made it a criminal offence to harass or intimidate women with the object of impeding their right to abortion.
Secretary of State for Equality Angela Rodriguez said to the El Periodico newspaper: “It is important to clarify what a painful period is, we are not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, severe headaches and fever. Symptoms that when there is a disease that entails them, a temporary disability is granted, therefore the same should happen with menstruation and that there is the possibility that if a woman has a very painful period, she can stay home.”
She added: “One in four women cannot choose the feminine hygiene products she wants to buy for financial reasons. That is why we propose that they can be dispensed free of charge in educational and social centres.”