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Mumbai: TISS students propel the third phase of Period Leave Campaign

Updated on: 10 January,2024 05:56 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dipti Singh |

TISS students demand menstrual leave, formation of expert committee to analyse implementation

Mumbai: TISS students propel the third phase of Period Leave Campaign

TISS students enrolling for the period leave campaign

Student unions/organisations at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) entered the third phase of their Period Leave Campaign. In support of this initiative, numerous letters from menstruating students have been submitted, urging the adoption of period leaves. The movement gained traction following developments at Cochin and 15 other universities last year, where menstrual benefits, including a two per cent condonation of the mandatory 75 per cent attendance policy for female students, were granted in response to a request from a student union.

In TISS Mumbai, student unions are advocating for the establishment of an expert committee comprising students and faculty representatives to assess the situation on the Mumbai campus and implement similar benefits as deemed appropriate. Fathima Sulthana, general secretary of Progressive Students Forum (PSF), a student’s collective in TISS, said, “Like Cochin has brought down the mandatory attendance to 73 per cent from the previous 75 per cent, we want the administration here to consider something in these terms here too. However, we are demanding the administration set up an expert committee, analyse and verify the situation and need here and implement period leave. We have also demanded that this committee should have representatives from students and faculty too.”

Sulthana added, “In two days, Monday and Tuesday, we are writing a letter to TISS vice-chancellor, signed by menstruating students on the campus with a demand for granting period leave by relaxing attendance for menstruating students in the institute. Thereby taking one more step toward making the campus a more inclusive and gender-sensitive space.” Another student from the campus said, “Last year, 16 universities in the country adopted the relaxation of mandatory attendance for menstruating students; why can’t TISS, which was the first institute to have a gender-neutral hostel? This relaxation will make the institute more gender-sensitive, given the fact that the majority of the students here are girls.”

Understanding period leave

In an email to the administration earlier, PSF stated that Cochin University in Kerala has set an excellent precedent by granting a two per cent attendance concession to menstruating students, with the intervention of a student union led by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI). The email read, “Cochin University previously allowed students with only 75 per cent attendance to appear for exams, which has now been changed to 73 per cent for girl students. Following CUSAT, the technical university in Kerala, as well as the other universities in the state are also planning to implement the same at the suggestion of the Left Democratic Front-led state government. This is a revolutionary move, and all higher education spaces in the country must adopt the model.”

The email stated that 75 per cent attendance is mandatory to appear for exams and evaluation, which includes medical leave in TISS. “This has created trouble for many students, especially those with physical health issues. Students have even faced setbacks during the semester due to attendance shortages. Menstruation is also a state where the students face severe pain and physical weakness. So, it is necessary to grant them relaxation from attendance. A period leave is also an exercise of people’s right to rest. The necessity of a provision for period leave separate from the usual medical leave provided stems from the fact that it is a monthly occurrence and is characteristic of only particular genders,” the email read.

Period leave will break taboo

“Granting a period leave will also encourage removing the taboo and stigma surrounding menstruation. It is a step towards a gender-sensitive and inclusive educational space. Workplaces in India and across have started considering and adopting the practice of a period of leave. There is no reason for this not to be extended to educational institutions as well. TISS, one of the premier institutions in India, was an example to other universities by bringing a Gender-neutral hostel, one of its first kind, because of the understanding and efforts of the institute to make the campus inclusive and gender sensitive. Keeping the courage to take such a progressive step, we urge the administration of TISS to grant this attendance concession by allowing Period leave for students. This is the third year when the students are reaching out to the administration demanding period leaves. In January last year girls started a signature campaign,” the email read.

The students said, not just period leave by students, research scholars do not have maternity leave too. “Pregnant students, research scholars in the campus have no option of maternity leave; hence they are forced to take a break, leading to them missing crucial academic hours,” added Sulthana. PSF has prepared a draft appeal letter, with students willing to support the cause sign; the same will be submitted to TISS vice-chancellor. Professor Manoj Kumar Tiwari, vice-chancellor, TISS, could not be reached for comments.

Total no of universities adopting period leave

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