Through the Lens: Life and Politics in Asia | Society | South Asia

The ‘Pad Man’ of India’s Parliament

Lawmaker Ninong Ering’s progressive step toward a period-friendly India.

“It is the most disgusting thing I’ve seen in my entire life!” says beloved character Stewie while reading a book about menstruation in the animated sitcom “Family Guy.” Unfortunately, Stewie is not the only one, as other favorite on-screen characters have also routinely talked about periods in a negative light. Episodes of “Entourage” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” show men accusing women of being erratic and stupid because of their menstrual cycles.

The portrayal of the relationship between women and their bodies on television has created a cultural construct about how women “should” feel about themselves. This negative portrayal has led most women to be ashamed or confused about their menstrual cycles.

Women need more positive representation of the unique pain that they suffer every month, and a channel through which they can acknowledge and express their pain.

Recognizing this lacuna in our society, Ninong Ering, Member of Parliament from the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, recently moved a private member’s bill suggesting that women who are working in the private or public sectors get two days of paid menstrual leave each month.

The Menstruation Benefits Bill of 2017 would entitle working women the option of taking menstrual leave or choosing to rest for 30 minutes during work hours along with having access to sanitary facilities in workplaces. The bill would also ensure female students in or above class 8 to avail a similar period-leave of two days.

The bill has cited a research conducted at University College London stating that period pain can be “as bad as having a heart attack.”

“I was initially addressed as Mrs. Ering in my letters as people thought such a step can be only taken by a woman,” shared Ering at a recent conference he organized in New Delhi to sensitize other lawmakers to the issue.

A number of countries, including South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, and Japan, give paid leave to female workers in offices.

Whether this bill is passed or not, it has initiated a much needed dialogue around the Right to Bleed in the country.