Spain is set to become the first country in the West to offer menstrual leave, at three days per month for women suffering period pain while at work.
On Cadena SER radio station, Spain’s premier radio network, the Spanish government announced it would approve the new measures at the next cabinet meeting this coming Tuesday.
It also announced schools will be required to provide sanitary pads for all students who need them, with plans also underway for 16 and 17-year-olds to access abortion services without parental permission.
This latest news comes after Spain’s Secretary of State for equality and against gender violence, Ángela Rodríguez, in March announced new measures that would guarantee menstrual health and recovery of reproductive health, including medical leave for women recovering from an abortion.
The government has also announced that sanitary pads and tampons in supermarkets will be tax-free, while women in “marginalised social circumstances” will be provided sanitary products free of charge.
Speaking with Barcelona’s morning daily newspaper, El Periodico, Rodríguez said the rights related to menstrual health had never been discussed in her country and that the data is “chilling.”
“One in four women cannot choose the feminine hygiene products she wants to buy for financial reasons,” she said. “That is why we propose that they can be dispensed free of charge in educational and social centres.”
“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, 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.”
In December, the Guardian reported a number of local administrations in Spain had begun offering menstrual leave to their employees.
Several months prior, Catalan city of Girona announced it would provide its women, trans men and non-binary employees to take up to eight hours menstrual leave a month, with the caveat that any time used must be recovered within a span of three months.
Girona’s deputy mayor, Maria Àngels Planas said the move would “pioneer the approval of menstrual leave.”
“We are eliminating the taboo that exists around menstruation and the pain that some women suffer – that we suffer – during menstruation,” she said.
A host of Catalan and Spanish municipalities followed suit with similar initiatives, including Ripoll, Les Borges Blanques and Castellón de la Plana.
Once the menstrual leave has been officially approved, Spain will join Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Zambia as countries that grant menstrual leave.
Japan was the first country to approve menstrual leave in 1947, though social stigma prevented many women from taking it.