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Spanish Lawmakers Give Final Approval to Europe’s First ‘Menstrual Leave’ Law

Spanish lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to a law granting paid medical leave to women suffering severe period pain, becoming the first European country to advance such legislation.

The law, which passed by 185 votes in favour to 154 against, is aimed at breaking a taboo on the subject, the government has said.

Menstrual leave is currently offered only in a small number of countries across the globe, among them JapanIndonesia and Zambia.

“It is a historic day for feminist progress,” Equality Minister Irene Montero tweeted ahead of the vote.

The legislation entitles workers experiencing period pain to as much time off as they need, with the state social security system – not employers – picking up the tab for the sick leave.

As with paid leave for other health reasons, a doctor must approve the temporary medical incapacity. 

The length of sick leave that doctors will be able to grant to women suffering from painful periods has not been specified in the law.

About a third of women who menstruate suffer from severe pain, according to the Spanish Gynaecology and Obstetrics Society.

The measure has created divisions among both politicians and unions, with the UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, warning it could stigmatise women in the workplace and favour the recruitment of men.

The main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) also warned the law risks “stigmatising” women and could have “negative consequences in the labour market” for them.

“Menstrual leave” is one of the key measures in the broader legislation, which also provides for increased access to abortion in public hospitals. 

Less than 15 percent of abortions performed in the country take place in such institutions, mainly because of conscientious objections by doctors.

The new law also allows minors to have abortions without parental permission at 16 and 17 years of age, reversing a requirement introduced by a previous conservative government in 2015.

Spain, a European leader in women’s rights, decriminalised abortion in 1985, and in 2010, it passed a law that allows women to opt freely for abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

Source: France 24