Spain makes the first “menstrual leave” law in Europe.
Thursday, Spain’s parliament passed a law that gives women with severe period pain paid medical leave. Spain is the first country in Europe to do this.
The law, which passed with 185 yes votes and 154 no votes, is meant to break a taboo on the subject, according to Spain’s left-wing government.
Only a few countries around the world, like Japan, Indonesia, and Zambia, offer menstrual leave at the moment.
“It is a historic day for feminist progress,” tweeted Equality Minister Irene Montero. She says the move is a step towards fixing a health problem that has been mostly ignored.
The law says that employees with period pain can take as much time off as they need, and the state’s social security system, not their employers, will pay for it.
Like paid leave for other health reasons, it needs a doctor’s okay, but the law doesn’t say how long sick leave can be.
The Spanish Gynecology and Obstetrics Society says that about a third of women have very bad pain during their periods.
When the law was first passed by the cabinet in May 2022, Montero said, “Periods will no longer be a taboo subject.”
“We won’t have to go to work in pain or take pills before going to work to hide the fact that we’re in so much pain that we can’t work.”
Politicians, unions divided
But the law caused disagreements between politicians and unions.
One of Spain’s biggest labour unions, the CCOO, praised the move as a major “legislative advance” that brings attention to a problem that has been “ignored” until now.
But Spain’s other main union, the UGT, said that it could make women look bad at work and make it harder for them to “access the labour market.” The main right-wing opposition party, the Popular Party, agreed with this point of view (PP).
The right to menstrual leave was part of a bigger law that also made it easier for women to get abortions in public hospitals, which is still hard to do in a country with a strong Catholic tradition.
Less than 15% of abortions in the country happen in public hospitals. This is mostly because doctors have moral objections to performing abortions.
The new law also lets 16- and 17-year-olds get abortions without their parents’ permission, which is the opposite of what a conservative government did in 2015.
Spain is a leader in Europe when it comes to women’s rights. In 1985, it made abortion legal again, and in 2010, it passed a law that says most women can choose to have an abortion at any time during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.