Spain’s parliament adopted a measure offering paid medical leave to women suffering from severe period pain on Thursday, making it the first European nation to do so.

The measure, which passed with 185 votes in favour and 154 against, is intended to shatter a taboo on the issue, according to Spain’s left-wing government.

Menstrual leave is now available in just a few nations throughout the world, including Japan, Indonesia, and Zambia.

“It is a historic day for feminist advancement,” tweeted Equality Minister Irene Montero, who claims the decision is a step towards tackling a long-ignored health issue.

Employees suffering period discomfort are entitled to as much time off as they need, with the state social security system — not employers — footing up the price for the sick leave.

It needs a doctor’s consent, much as paid leave for other health reasons, and the period of sick leave is not stipulated in the legislation.

According to the Spanish Gynaecology and Obstetrics Association, one-third of women have severe menstruation discomfort.

“Periods will no longer be taboo,” Montero declared in May 2022, after the bill was first approved by the cabinet.

“No more going to work in discomfort, no more taking medicines before coming to work and trying to disguise the fact that we’re in pain that prevents us from working.”

Politicians and labour unions are at odds.
Yet, the act sowed discord among politicians and labour groups.

The CCOO, one of Spain’s leading labour unions, hailed the measure as a significant “legislative breakthrough” in recognising a hitherto “ignored” issue.

Nevertheless, the UGT, Spain’s second major union, cautioned that it might stigmatise women in the workplace and impede their “access to the labour market,” a view shared by the main right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP).

Menstrual leave was enacted as part of a larger legislation that also improves access to abortion services in public hospitals, a right that remains difficult women achieve in a nation with a strong Catholic history.

Fewer than 15% of abortions in the nation are done in public hospitals, owing to clinicians’ conscientious objections.

The new law also permits children aged 16 and 17 to undergo abortions without parental consent, removing a prohibition imposed by a previous conservative administration in 2015.

Spain, a European pioneer in women’s rights, decriminalised abortion in 1985 and established a legislation in 2010 that enables women to choose abortion freely throughout the first 14 weeks of pregnancy in most situations.

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