Spain votes to pass new law introducing paid “menstrual leave” for painful periods

Spanish lawmakers on Thursday approved a new law introducing menstrual leave for women with painful periods and increasing access to abortions in public hospitals.

This text was adopted by the deputies of the lower house of the Spanish Parliament at first reading by 190 votes in favour, 154 against and 5 abstentions. Now it goes to the Senate.

“This legislature is a legislature of feminist conquests,” Irene Montero, Spain’s Minister for Equality and a member of the radical left Podemos, a party allied to the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, told the House of Representatives.

“We recognize menstrual health as part of the right to health and fight against stigma and silence,” she added.

The length of sick leave that doctors can grant to women with menstrual bleeding was not specified in the bill.

If this bill is finally adopted, Spain will be the first country in Europe and one of the few in the world to integrate this measure into its legislation, following the example of Japan, Indonesia or Zambia.

However, there are reservations in certain circles, particularly within the UGT union, one of the country’s two major unions, over fears that employers wanting to avoid these absences could put a brake on hiring women.

Access to abortion in public hospitals

“Menstrual leave” is one of the key measures in the broader legislation, which also includes improved access to abortions in public hospitals. Less than 15 percent of the abortions performed in the country take place in these facilities, largely because of doctors’ conscientious objection.

It is also intended to allow minors as young as 16 and 17 to have abortions without parental permission, reversing a requirement introduced by a previous Conservative government in 2015.

Abortion was decriminalized in Spain in 1985 and legalized in 2010, but abortion remains a troubled right in this country with a strong Catholic tradition.

This bill also provides for the strengthening of sex education in schools and the free distribution of contraceptives and menstrual hygiene products in secondary schools.

Spain is considered a reference country for women’s rights in Europe, especially since the passage of a law on gender-based violence in 2004. The Sanchez government has more women than men in its ranks.

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