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The country where all women get a day off because of their period

Zambia's provision for menstrual leave remains a rarity in much of the world 

Will Worley
Wednesday 04 January 2017 15:44 GMT
Women in Zambia can take one day off a month because of painful periods
Women in Zambia can take one day off a month because of painful periods ( GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Zambian women who are on their period are allowed to call their employers for "Mother's Day" and take time off work.

The southern African nation has enshrined the practice into its Labour laws.

Even if women are not going through their menstrual cycle, they can call in and take a day off if they are feeling too sick to work.

Ministers have made it clear however, that the practice is only entitled for those who are ill.

"If you absent yourself yet you are found in a disco house, then it will not be taken as Mother's Day," the country's labour minister, Joyce Nonde-Simukoko, told the BBC.

"You shouldn't even leave town, be found doing your hair or shopping. You can be fired. For example, somebody was found farming after taking Mother's Day and she was fired."

While some employers have objected to the law, saying it can be bad for productivity, they can face legal action if they deny a woman her "Mother’s Day".

Discussing periods is taboo in Zambia which is why it is referred to by that name.

Allowing women to take time off during their menstrual cycle is rare among African countries so Zambia is leading the way with the law, although similar legislation has been enacted in East Asia.

Three Chinese provinces – Shanxi, Hubei and Ningxia - now allow women to take leave for painful periods and employers can be punished if they do not allow the time off.

Japan introduced a similar law in 1947 and Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan all have similar legal provisions.

Women in Indonesia rarely take these days off, even if they need to, because companies insist on examining women before they would be allowed to take leave, according to the Jakarta Globe.

It is also believed that the leave is underused in the other countries for fear of alerting male colleagues to a menstrual cycle, potentially causing humiliation and drawing harassment.

There is no provision for menstrual leave in the West. The idea was proposed in Russia in 2013, but failed to become law.

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