The Spanish Congress of Deputies definitively approved on Thursday a law so that workers who suffer from painful periods can take a “menstrual leave”, a pioneering measure in Europe to, according to the left-wing government, break taboos.
“Today is a historic day of progress in feminist rights”the Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, of Podemos, the radical left party that is a minority partner of the government coalition with the Socialists, wrote on Twitter.
Adopted by 185 votes in favour, 154 against and 3 abstentions, this law makes Spain the first country in Europe and one of the few in the world to consider this measure, following Japan, Indonesia and Zambia.
The text of the law states that “The sick leave in which the woman may find herself in case of secondary disabling menstruation or secondary dysmenorrhea associated with pathologies such as endometriosis will be considered a special situation of temporary disability due to common contingencies”.
”It is a matter of giving an adequate regulation to this pathological situation in order to eliminate any type of negative bias in the workplace,” adds the law.
The law does not specify how long this sick leave will last.
The “menstrual leave” has aroused reservations in the socialist part of the government and is criticized by the union UGT (Union General de Trabajadores).
UGT, one of the two largest unions in the country, expressed its concern that employers who want to avoid them end up stopping the hiring of women.
The conservative Popular Party (PP), the main opposition party, warned of the risk of “marginalization, stigmatization” and “negative consequences in the labor market” for women.
Menstrual loss is one of the key measures of a much broader bill to increase access to abortion in public hospitals, which perform less than 15% of abortions in the country, mainly due to the massive conscientious objection of doctors.
Many women have to travel hundreds of kilometers to have an abortion due to the lack of public service or a nearby specialized clinic in certain areas of the country.
The law will also allow minors to abort without their parents’ permission from the age of 16, annulling an obligation established by a conservative government in 2015.
Abortion was decriminalized in Spain in 1985 and then legalized in 2010, but it remains a right fraught with obstacles in this traditionally Catholic country.
The law approved on Thursday also provides for more sex education in schools and the free distribution of contraceptives and menstrual hygiene products in institutes.
Spain is considered a benchmark country for women’s rights in Europe, especially since the approval of a law on gender violence in 2004.
The Sánchez government declares itself feminist and has more women than men in its ranks.
(with information from AFP)
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