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Thai activists rally for menstrual rights

Thai labour law remains silent on the issue of menstrual leave, contrasting sharply with the growing societal openness towards discussing issues like period pains and the accessibility of sanitary products.

Photo: Women Workers for Justice Group (WJG)
Photo: Women for Justice Group (WJG)

CHIANG MAI –  Gender rights advocates in Thailand are championing a campaign for menstrual leave for workers, backed by 2,000 signatures from individuals nationwide and support from nineteen networks.

Celebrating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Women Workers for Justice Group (WJG), a labour rights organisation focused on women’s well-being, submitted four demands to the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare on November 26.

Their demands include paid menstrual leave, free sanitary pads for all, childcare benefits without discrimination. They also call for the urgent creation of “safe spaces” for those encountering gender-based violence in the family and workplace.

 

Thai law silent on menstrual leave

Despite growing public openness to discussing period pains and affordable sanitary products, menstrual leave remains absent from Thai labour law, where such issues are often considered taboo. The representative from labour authorities welcomed the demands, yet suggested that workers seeking time off for menstruation should use their sick leave, as per a WJG representative.

“Women undergo menstrual cycles monthly. Menstrual leave should not be categorised as sick leave,” said a young WJG representative, who asked not be named. She highlighted that some women working in agriculture in Chiang Mai and northern provinces, often from indigenous groups and migrant communities, have fainted during their menstrual cycle.

Under Thai labour law, workers are entitled to 30 days of paid sick leave annually. This includes time off for sterilisation, while maternity leave is separate.

 

Thailand lacks behind

Many Asian countries have policies for paid menstrual leave. Indonesia, having introduced this policy in 1948, allows workers to take leave during the first two days of their cycle. However, recent amendments have drawn criticism for reducing this to a matter between employers and workers. In Vietnam, workers are entitled to up to three days off per month for menstruation. Some advocates, however, express concern that menstrual leave could reinforce gender stereotypes.

The demands resonate with gender advocates in Bangkok too. The “Moon Blood Festival” exhibition at the Day/DM café, initiated by sexologist and café owner Pratima Ruksachon, who identifies as non-binary, calls to destigmatize menstruation and challenge its perception as a women-only issue.

“I feel awkward buying pads with pink packaging or overly feminine branding. Many people with diverse gender identities experience menstruation,” Pratima said.

Featuring pad boxes designed for trans men and non-binary individuals, the exhibition, playing off the Halloween theme, runs from October 31 to December 30.