Every month, every woman in Zambia is legally entitled to a day off work.
Referred to as “Mothers Day,” the law does not spell out the reason for the provision, but everyone knows what it is for: periods.
Despite its name, the law applies to all women regardless of whether they have children. Women can take their day at any point in the month, and do not need to provide a medical explanation to their employer. Any employer who denies a female employee this right can be prosecuted.
So is this an example for the rest of the world to follow? Is “menstrual leave” a sign of progress, or simply patriarchy 2.0?
Churan Zheng, a Chinese feminist who works for Pride Planning suffers from severe period pain and believes that menstrual leave should be guaranteed to all women.
“I always get a heavy feeling and stomach cramps the night before my period starts,” she told the BBC. “And when I wake up, the pain that accompanies the menstruation is so unbearable that I always imagine myself grabbing my intestines and tearing them out of my body, or cutting them out with a pair of scissors.”
Justin Mukosa, a male employer in Zambia, agrees that menstrual leave does not necessarily lead to lower productivity. “Productivity is not only about the person being in the office,” he said. “It should basically hinge on the output of that person.”
His employee, Ndekela Mazimba, chooses to take a “Mothers Day” due to her intense period pains.
“You might find that on the first day of your menses, you’ll have stomach cramps — really bad stomach cramps,” she said. “You can take whatever painkillers but end up in bed the whole day.”