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Courtesy of Rupi Kaur

Spain becomes the first country in Europe to offer ‘menstrual leave’

People struggling with their periods will be given up to five days off work, every month

Imagine feeling as though one of your internal organs has been replaced by a massive balloon. Imagine a thousand tiny Anthony Joshuas inside your abdomen, punching your insides with all their might. Imagine someone stabbing you with a serrated knife and twisting it unbearably slowly. Now, imagine all these things at once, and going to work at the same time. If that sounds unfair, that’s because it is! Unfortunately, though, this is likely the reality for anyone who’s ever had a period.

However, Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government is preparing to introduce a law that would allow up to three days of menstrual leave a month, entirely separate from paid holiday or sick leave.

While some companies across the world already offer menstrual leave, very few countries have enshrined the right to menstrual leave in law. If the proposed legislation is enacted, it would make Spain the first country in Europe to have a policy dedicated to menstrual leave. Several Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, already have similar policies. But it’s still rare and taboo in many Western countries.

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” Ángela Rodríguez, the secretary of state for equality, told El Periódico in March 2022. “It’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

Menstrual-related symptoms vary from person to person, but are particularly painful for people with conditions like endometriosis or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Studies estimate that 60 to 90 per cent of women suffer from severe period pain, known as dysmenorrhea. In Spain, approximately 75 per cent of women are affected.

Pads and tampons will also be provided for free for marginalised women, and will have the VAT removed in supermarkets.