Menstruation patterns are neccesary medical details

Investigating “the menstrual question” 

MUMBAI, India – India’s women bureaucrats are being told to provide details of their menstrual cycles in a new job appraisal form, a move that has angered female civil servants.

Among questions about goals and skills, the latest appraisal form, sent out earlier this year, asks women in India’s sprawling bureaucracy questions such as “when was your last menstrual period?” or “give details of your menstrual history.”

The form also specifies that “all female officers” must list details of their last maternity leave.

“This is insensitive. We feel strongly about this,” said Seema Vyas, a civil servant in the western state of Maharashtra’s administration department. “What will the government do with this information?”

All civil servants routinely undergo health checkups, but the details of the tests are not supposed to be part of their appraisals.

The appraisal form was based on guidelines issued by the Health Ministry, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

(Source: Associated Press)

A top official form the Indian civil service has since revealed plans to remove this part of the appraisal form, following an intervention by the Indian prime minister.

 The decision to scrap the “menstrual question” was taken after the Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP and women’s activist, Brinda Karat led a delegation to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and asked him to intervene in the matter.

Ms Karat described the decision as a “victory for common sense”.

“Following a series of protests we have decided to delete the objectionable part of the form which require women to provide details of their menstrual cycles,” the secretary of the personnel department at the Ministry for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Satyanand Mishra, told the BBC Hindi service.

Mr. Mishra was quoted earlier in the week as saying that he assumed the new questions would “help evaluate the officer’s fitness”.

There are some things that employers simply do not need to know to manage their staff effectively, and this is one of them. This isn’t about menstrual cyles, it’s about equality.

I’m not going to pretend that I understand the reasoning behind the decision to include these kind of questions on the appraisal form. I’m also not going to assume that sexism is what put it there in black and white. But the bottom line is that men have never had to have inappropriate medical infomation on official employee record. 

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