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Period Leaves - A Meftal or a mere Paracetamol

With NLS recently becoming one of the very few universities in India that offer period leave provisions, Quirk decided to sit down with the students to collect testimonies on their experiences with menstruation and the process of obtaining a period leave. Through this, we aim to gauge if and how this provision could be put to use in order to alleviate the difficulties that come with menstruation.

The previous notification for availing a period leave stipulated that the student 'must meet the University Nurse or Doctor either on the day they miss the class or on the very next day'. The University Doctor would then assess the student's claim and would have the discretion to either accept/reject the claim. On acceptance, they would issue a report to be submitted to the AAD which would then approve the condonation. The latest notification, however, prescribes a much simpler process. The student has to submit a 'Report on Menstrual Pain' (detailing the classes and hours missed) on the NLS Support Portal by 8 pm on the day they miss class. However, there are some ambiguities. The latest notification does not clarify whether there is an automatic reduction of attendance requirements (From 66% to 75%). Recent practice has been that the AAD will condone the medical leave if the percentage before make-up is between 66% and 75%. There is no automatic reduction of the requirement to 66% or instant condonation as and when you apply for it – this is done at the end of each trimester if you require it. This means that your attendance can go below 75% and you will not know how many classes you can additionally miss because you are yet to receive condonation for the menstrual leaves you have already applied for. We are yet to receive official confirmation of this from the UGC.

This piece is a follow-up to a previous piece Quirk published regarding the process of how period leaves were obtained. The interview was conducted by Aastha Malipatil and Sarthak Virdi (BA LLB 2026) and the illustration is by Nidhi Agrawal (BA LLB 2026). The following are excerpts from the interview.

Quirk: How has your experience with menstruation been generally?

Arushi: I started menstruating fairly early, at around 11. My cycle for the longest time was also much less than a month, which meant I menstruated twice a month. I’ve always had a pretty bad five days because I have severe cramps, especially on my first two days. But I’ve taken painkillers about once or twice since I started menstruating because I was always told I needed to deal with the pain naturally. Taking days off from school was never an option either. Still, the overall response to my periods, especially in my family, has been pretty open and accepting. I don’t usually feel like I need to hide the fact that I am menstruating from the male members of my family. But I am told not to enter the prayer room or participate in any religious activity.

Varsha: I have been menstruating since I was around 11/12 years old. Of course, it was not easy to deal with in the beginning as my knowledge regarding the different sanitary products available was very limited. Over time my periods have gotten better – I switched to a menstrual cup after using pads for years. It has honestly been life-changing! While I still experience excruciatingly painful cramps, using a menstrual cup means I dread my period much less since it makes it (comparatively) hassle-free. However, over the past few months, I have been dealing with PCOS symptoms, especially irregular cycles, and excessive bleeding – I miss my period for months and then have one excessively heavy period out of the blue. I'm hoping this gets better. I've learnt that menstruation differs, not only from person to person, but it could also change dramatically as you transition from a teenager to an adult.

Gauri: I am fortunate enough to not have had a particularly tough experience with menstruation. The pain is not as prolonged as it can be for other people who menstruate, but I do experience strong pain, headache, and fatigue, especially during the first two days. While I don’t particularly require medication, functioning on an NLS schedule is difficult. Sitting through classes is uncomfortable and I often find myself needing to step out to walk so that I can manage the pain. Menstruation has always been a given and I was never taught to believe I could ask for concessions during that time of the month. However, as my environment has become increasingly demanding, I have become more aware of the fact that cisgender men have an upper hand in meeting these physical and mental demands. It does feel unfair and the lack of sympathy towards menstruation and the many discomforts it comes with, definitely exacerbate my frustration.

Quirk: If you have opted for a period leave, how has your experience been? Was the staff supportive?

Varsha: I tried to opt for a period leave in April (under the previous system) due to my severe symptoms and the experience was disappointing, to say the least. Around 5 pm I went to the concerned authorities to claim this and upon requesting one, I was told to list my symptoms. After this, the doctor outright told me I could not avail a period leave for numerous reasons – I was too late in coming to the Health Centre and if I really wanted a leave I should have come earlier than 5 pm. Not only was I dreading the long walk to the Health Centre, I only went at that time because the notification said we could do so either the day we missed class or the day after. The doctor went on to tell me that period pain is not a ‘true medical condition’ despite my telling him that I am suspected to have PCOS and am in the process of being tested for it by a doctor. I was also told that since he is still in the process of seeking clarifications to the notification released by the University, I could not claim the leave yet. Despite these reasons, what was truly upsetting was that a doctor undermined the amount of pain that menstruators have due to periods. The current notification certainly simplifies the process. I availed a period leave in the first week of August and all I had to do was fill up a form stating the classes that I’ve missed and upload this on the support portal. However, I haven’t received any confirmation as to whether my request has been approved and if my attendance requirement has been reduced to 66% although I seemed to have received attendance for the class that I missed. Provided that there is a mechanism to resolve these ambiguities, this new notification is certainly the first step in making Law School a more supportive space for menstruators!

Gauri: I opted for a period leave after we received a notification from the SBA that it was now operational. I knew at the point that there had been sensitivity issues with the in-house medical staff, but I assumed it had been cleared up. However, when I went to the doctor to get a slip for the period leave, I was told that it would not be provided because he could not “assess” my menstruation claim. I had missed attendance for two full classes because I did not anticipate this response and have not been able to claim attendance for those four hours. My batch has seven papers this trimester and we have had to navigate attendance a lot more strategically so as to not exhaust it early on. Being deprived of four hours of attendance definitely makes a dent and I have had to compensate for that loss by showing up for class even when I would have preferred missing it. Approaching faculty individually has also not been useful - they wanted to be intimated in advance that a period leave was being claimed, but that’s not always possible. By and large, the experience has definitely been negative.

Anonymous: I tried to avail a period leave recently, called up the nurse and told her I was in a lot of pain, and asked how I can apply for the leave. I know I probably should have read the circular (?) but I had not by then. Instead of answering my question, which was quite strictly related to the procedure and not her opinion/medical assistance, she started laughing. She asked me to come to the health centre to "prove" that I was in pain. Given that the health centre is all the way across campus in some shady ass jungle place now, I was simply not well enough to go. I was in a cold sweat, barely able to talk on the phone, and I told her this. She offered to give me a hot water bag (which again, I had to go and collect), but when my friend went to collect it the health centre was locked and the nurse was out for lunch. She had no meds to offer. Medical facilities in this college are generally poor, but the fact that period cramps are treated with less concern and empathy than scraped knees is a bit annoying. On this occasion, I just missed 6 hours of class scheduled for the day without availing period leave.

Quirk: Did the previous institutions you were part of, have the provision of period leaves, if yes, then did you make use of it?

Gauri: No, there was never a formal provision. However, my previous college was an all-women’s institution and there were tacit concessions that individual faculty would give if they were sympathetic.

Quirk: How aware do you think your non-menstruating friends are of the experience of periods?

Arushi: My non-menstruating friends mostly have a basic idea of how periods work – the biological process and the existence of the menstrual cycle. Most of them, however, are unaware of menstrual disorders like PCOS and PCOD. My menstruating friends and I have generally had to explain experiences such as PMS and cramps to them.

Gauri: All my non-menstruating friends are quite aware of the experience and though they are sympathetic, the knowledge they have will always be secondhand. Knowing on paper what the experience is is wholly different from completely gauging how the intensity and duration of menstruation affect an individual. I think the awareness is also never complete because menstruating individuals have been socially programmed to either not actively talk about it or make it somebody else’s problem, often both. Even when this is overcome and conversations happen, people have a hard time understanding the need for menstruation concessions because they are used to menstruating individuals underplaying their own discomfort or simply adhering to structures that are overtly and covertly hostile to addressing gendered needs.

Anonymous: Most of my non-menstruating friends are quite comfortable around discussions of menstruation, which is like the bare minimum, but still. Some of them are also quite accommodating (they have offered to get me any meds I may need or carry my bag etc).

Ritu: I cannot say this enough but yes, literally every authority needs to be sensitized on this particular issue. Menstruation has never even been an open topic in families, within households, with your fathers or male relatives. It's always looked at as something taboo-ic, separate from a biological, health process. I remember my mom also used to hush me if I mentioned it to my brothers but she is great now. So things are freshly changing only now but given that we are a law college, so akin to having bold discussions, this needs to be sensitized about.

Quirk: Do you think the concern of period leaves being misused is valid? Why/why not?

Gauri: It’s wholly invalid. Any policy is subject to misuse but that’s not sufficient reason to not implement it, especially if the net benefit it brings outweighs any harm. The fact remains that the menstruation experience is wildly diverse — for every person that may not necessarily require a leave, there is also someone who may suffer from PCOS and experience extreme and prolonged symptoms. To deprive the latter of any benefits due to fear of misuse is unfair. The concern of misuse is a reflection of how issues raised by women and gender minorities have always been treated with suspicion and undue scrutiny. Ultimately, it is unfair that individuals who have never experienced menstruation get to determine such a policy or scrutinize menstruating people. There can never and should never be an “assessment” of whether someone is menstruating because it is an inherent invasion of their privacy and any menstruation claim should be accepted at face value. People who menstruate deserve space and time to deal with something that is not only natural but something they did not actively choose for themselves. Any claim on the contrary is one that supports socially and ethically static institutions.

Ritu: I do not believe this leave is so prone to being misused at all. It's a health benefit available to us but it's still within that small bracket of "medical grounds" and not apart from it. We need to meet 75 percent of attendance, down to 66 with medical make-ups, with a few hours in each course. It in fact doesn't help us entirely because it is in addition to all of the other health issues that we can't anticipate we will face over the trimester.

Quirk: How have you dealt with period pain before this – have you missed classes or exams (writing exams while menstruating or getting your period while writing your exam) and how do you think the academic burden at NLS contributes towards the same?

Arushi: I’ve dealt with the pain naturally and was never allowed to miss classes or exams in school even when the pain was bad. In college as well, I generally try to deal with the pain without any medicine though I’ve taken Meftal a few times to cope with the number of classes and events we have to attend. The academic burden here has definitely affected my cycle and the way I deal with the pain – the pain has become more erratic and intense and I’ve started developing bad nausea as well. But I try to go a little easy on work on the days when the pain is very bad though I still keep feeling guilty about falling behind.

Gauri: I have missed classes to deal with period pain but have had to sit through exams because periods have never been viewed as a legitimate grievance. Missing classes during periods is often inevitable, especially at NLS, because sitting through longer classes is too physically and mentally demanding, and engaging with coursework while having cramps, headaches and fogginess is truly difficult. The immense stress of academic requirements contributes to and aggravates PCOS and its symptoms, making it difficult to prioritize health and a balanced lifestyle which are imperative to manage symptoms. It's not just the academic burden but also the attitude that menstruation is essentially a “private” problem that is the individual’s alone. I was once denied attendance because the faculty was unsympathetic to my friend and I missed roll-call because I had to rush back to the hostel to get a pad from her room during the break, even though both of us had otherwise attended the entire lecture. All of these combined, periods and associated pains have definitely become a burden.

Anonymous: I generally take meds that work sometimes but often they don't. Studying becomes a nightmare when you are feverishly sick and in constant abdominal pain.

Quirk: What has your experience been with PCOS?

Varsha: As I mentioned earlier, I am in the process of being tested for PCOS by my doctor. I get my period once every 45-60 days but it comes with excruciating back pain, cramps and head rushes. This, coupled with anemia, leads to immense physical and mental strain to the point where I lay in bed for days together, unable to get up or walk due to discomfort. Certainly, academic stress only adds to this. I have been told “It can’t be that bad” by numerous people; however, PCOS could be a very serious condition for some menstruators and is more common than most people know. Hence it’s vital that NLS as an institution does not delegitimise these concerns and provides adequate support to menstruators. While the period leave might not solve all the period-related problems menstruators face, it will certainly go a long way in dealing with it in college because worrying about falling short of attendance is the last thing we need. This period leave provision starts the conversation regarding menstruation and its impact on daily life so I can only hope that it provides whatever support possible to the menstruators on campus.

Ritu: I feel the liberty to share some personal details about my menstruation conditions. I have PCOS and a special kind of hormonal imbalance situation in which my ovaries release more than the average hormones required. As a result, I actually experience periods twice a month, that is, every 15 days. I get 24 period cycles instead of the regular 12. And I cannot explain to any person in this world how ridiculously exhausting and draining my days are, physically, mentally and emotionally. My body is immensely prone to mood swings, nausea, weakness, vomiting sensations and stress. So those few hours of period leave may mean A LOT to someone who goes through periods 6 times in one academic trimester.

I have missed classes, and unfortunately, some exams. When we didn't have period leave prior to lockdown, I even used to cut class and lie down right outside the classrooms on the floor because I couldn't sit on a chair for a long time, in that one position. Our academic burden pretty much contributes to escalating any and every kind of health issue that we might have. But yes, as much as people aren't aware, mental stress and excessive work do contribute to hormonal releases and vice versa. It's a sad cycle.

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