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Spain Set To Offer 3-Day Menstrual Leave Every Month To Women Suffering Painful Periods

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In a move with the potential to shake up how menstruation is treated in the workplace, Spain is the first Western country to propose a guaranteed three-day menstruation leave per month.

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The country has drafted a reform plan, coming after Spain’s Secretary of State for Equality and Gender Violence Ángela Rodríguez made an announcement in March that there would be new measures taken to support reproductive health, which even includes medical leave for women who are recovering from an abortion. 

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(Note that the wording in all reports on the reform only refers to “women” and “girls” as those who menstruate, although AFAB women are not the only ones who menstruate or have abortions.)

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The aim of Spain’s reform plan is to close the gender divide and is scheduled to be signed into law this coming Tuesday.

“If someone has an illness with such symptoms, a temporary disability is granted, so the same should happen with menstruation—allowing a woman with a very painful period to stay at home,” Rodriguez told El Periódico. While three days is the proposed baseline, that can also be extended to five days when needed.

Non-Western countries that already have menstrual leave set into law include Zambia, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, and South Korea.

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Secretary Rodriguez went on to cite a study that states that over 50% of women suffer from painful menstruation every month. When minors are included in the statistics, that percentage goes up to 74%.

“When the problem cannot be solved medically, we believe that it is very sensible that there is a temporary disability associated with this issue. It is important to clarify what a painful period is; we are not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhea, severe headaches, fever…”

In addition to the proposed menstruation leave, the reform will also extend to those who are recovering from having an abortion, which will available at all public hospitals according to Minister of Equality Irene Montero. 

Rodriguez said that abortions, whether voluntary or involuntary, cause both physical and psychological issues that require “temporary disabilities” while recovering. The reform will also allow for 16 and 17 year olds to get abortions without parental permission.

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“That is why it seems sensible to us to propose that there be a permit as long as the situation is within the health framework that is used for temporary disabilities, which allows one to be at home for a few days after terminating a pregnancy,” Rodriguez said. “We believe it is common sense and that perhaps it should have existed much earlier.”

Additionally, the law will require schools to provide pads and tampons for free to students, and menstruation products will no longer be taxed under VAT.

“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 centers. Also, as these products are very expensive, we will propose a hyper-reduced tax rate,” Rodriguez said.

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In a time when the United States seems to be taking two steps backward in reproductive health, Spain is stepping up for those who menstruate.