Kerala to become first Indian state to grant menstrual leave to all university students

Kerala in southern India is set to become the first state in the country to grant menstrual leave for students in all government-run higher educational institutions.

The Kerala higher education department issued an order on Thursday saying that menstruating students can now partake in their semester exams with 73 per cent attendance instead of the 75 per cent mandated by university rules.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a tweet on Thursday said: "Once again, Kerala sets a model for the nation."

"Menstrual and maternity leaves will be granted to female students of all institutions under our Department of Higher Education, reaffirming the LDF (Left Democratic Front) Government's commitment to realising a gender-just society," added the only communist leader of a state government in India.

Mr Vijayan said that the decision to a grant concession of two per cent in attendance is limited to the students who "miss their studies due to various health problems during their menstrual days".

The Kerala government has also announced that all female students above the age of 18 can access up to 60 days of pregnancy leave.

Authorities will not have to amend the university rules to include the changes.

R Bindu, the state minister for higher education and social justice, said that the move to grant menstrual leaves was first introduced by the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) in the state.

Heeding a long-standing demand of the students, the university on 11 January sanctioned an additional two per cent allowance of shortage of attendance to menstruating students.

"Since such a move is expected to bring relief to a lot of menstruating students, we have decided to implement it across the state's varsities. Necessary amendments will be made in the university rules," the minister said.

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“We did not expect such a speedy and positive response from the university,” said Namita George, the chairperson of the CUSAT students’ union said.

“And, now, this is being replicated in the entire state. We did not expect that our petition would prompt such sudden action. We are thrilled,” she told The Week.

Meanwhile, a public interest litigation petition has been filed before the Supreme Court asking for the introduction of menstrual leave for students and working women across the country. The petition filed by advocate Shailendra Mani Tripathi urged the court to direct state governments to frame rules for menstrual pain leaves, according to Bar and Bench.