Spain’s Council of Ministers, yesterday approved a bill that grants women paid medical leave if they suffer from severe period pains.
The approval of the new ‘women's health law’ bill will mean that women who experience acute period pain, will be allowed to take paid time off of work, with the state social security system paying sick leave, not the employer.
A doctor, as with other health issues, must approve the medical leave in order for sick pay to be given.
Spain’s Minister of Equality Irene Montero explained that the draft represents a modification of one that was approved in 2010 by the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which already had “very solid pillars”, after the “setbacks” that occurred under Mariano Rajoy’s government.
The proposed legislation must still be approved by parliament, with a vote not expected for months. It was also not clear whether Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s minority coalition government, which has focused on women’s rights, has enough support in the assembly to pass it.
The proposal has seen the coalition divided and unions split, with many believing the move could see men being more preferable to employ, as women could become stigmatised in the workplace.
However, Montero proposed that the law will acknowledge a health problem that has, to a great extent, been swept under the carpet.
Speaking at a news conference after the bill was approved, Montero said “Periods will no longer be taboo.
“We will be the first country in Europe to introduce a temporary sick leave that is fully financed by the state for painful and incapacitating periods,” she added.
‘No more hiding our pain’
“No more going to work with pain, no more taking pills before arriving at work and having to hide the fact on days we're in pain that makes us unable to work.”
If voted through in parliament, Spain will be the first country in Europe to offer paid menstrual leave, but not the first worldwide as countries such as Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia are already doing so.
This ruling is part of a broader reproductive health reform, which will also see changes to Spain’s abortion laws, contraception and free period products.
If the new law is passed, girls aged 16 and 17 who want an abortion, will no longer need consent from their parents.
Women will be guaranteed abortions in the public health system, with the emphasis being on the proximity of the woman's home to the health centre. They will also have the right to disability leave and specialised support in cases of a terminated pregnancy.
In addition to this, women will also be able to choose between a surgical and pharmacological abortion, both of which must be available in all centres.
The three mandatory reflection days before a termination, that have been mandatory up until now, will be removed.
Free period products will be available in high schools, civic centres, social centres, public bodies, prisons and women’s centres. Products such as tampons, pads or menstrual cups will all be distributed free of charge with the aim of ending menstrual poverty.
The new law also stipulates that the morning-after pill will be available free of charge, in health centres, as well as in sexual and reproductive health institutions.
At present, this emergency contraceptive can be bought without a prescription in pharmacies, priced at roughly €20, however, some Spanish regions already provide it for free in health centres. The new law proposes that the pill must be available in all pharmacies across Spain.
Male contraceptive methods will also be promoted so that the responsibility will not be placed solely on the woman's shoulders.
Free contraceptive methods will also be available in educational centres that are linked to campaigns on sexual education, this is something that will also be done in social centres and prisons. There will also be public centres for sexual and reproductive health and a hotline will be launched.
Image Credit: Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa