The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to frame a model policy on menstrual leave for women workers after consulting states and other stakeholders in the matter, reported PTI.

A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra passed the direction while hearing a plea that sought menstrual leave.

The plea had contended that in spite of provisions in the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, “to take care of women in difficult stages of her maternity, the very first stage of maternity, which is the menstrual period, has been knowingly or unknowingly ignored by society”, legislature and other stakeholders except few organisations and state governments, reported The Times of India.

However, the bench on Monday said that the matter was related to policy and it was not for the court to look into it.

“Petitioner says that a representation was submitted to the Centre in May 2023,” the court said. “Since the issues raise multifarious objectives of state policy, there is no reason for this court to intervene in light of our previous order.”

The bench asked the petitioner, Shailendra Mani Tripathi, to explain how menstrual leave would encourage more women to be part of the workforce, reported PTI. The court observed that mandating such leave could lead to women “being shunned from the workforce”.

“We do not want that,” the bench said. “This is actually a government policy aspect and not for the courts to look into.”

The court on Monday permitted Tripathi to approach the secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati.

“We request the secretary to look into the matter at the policy level and take a decision after consulting all stakeholders and see if a model policy can be framed,” it ordered.

Last year, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Smriti Irani, who was the Women and Child Development Minister at the time, had opposed the idea of mandatory paid leave for women on account of menstruation.

“As a menstruating woman, menstruation and the menstruation cycle are not a handicap; they’re a natural part of women’s life journey,” Irani had said in response to a question by Opposition MP Manoj Kumar Jha in the Rajya Sabha.

Irani had also confirmed that the Union health ministry was rolling out a Menstrual Hygiene Policy.

The government’s draft Menstrual Hygiene Policy released in October included leave provisions for menstruating women in workplaces.

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‘Unclean’, ‘monstrous effects’, ‘the curse’: Menstruation has a long history of stigma, shame