From paid menstrual leave to transgender rights, here's how Spain is pioneering change

This European country became the first one to acknowledge women’s right to sick leave due to menstrual pain on the legislative level. Despite having traditionally Catholic values, its new progressive law makes it easier to change gender and have an abortion.

This country becomes the first to offer paid sick leave due to menstrual pain
© Photo by Polina Zimmerman on
This country becomes the first to offer paid sick leave due to menstrual pain

Spain became the first European country to entitle workers to paid menstrual leave as it passed numerous sexual and reproductive rights laws.

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The new legislation covers age regulations for gender change and abortion as well as access to free contraception and menstrual products, transforming the traditionally Catholic state into one of the most progressive countries on reproductive rights.

Menstrual pain leave

Menstrual pain can be debilitating, and yet it hasn’t been acknowledged as a valid reason for sick leave around the world. But women in Spain finally won the right to take 3 - 5 days off work when their bodies need it most.

Country's Equality Minister Irene Montero from Unidas Podemos party is the driving force behind the new law. According to her, ‘without such rights, women are not full citizens’, and the Spanish government will pay for the menstrual leave provision.

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Abortion rights

The changes to sexual and reproductive rights also mean that 16- and 17-year-olds in Spain can now undergo an abortion without parental consent.

Period products will now be offered free in high schools and prisons, while state-run health centres will do the same with hormonal contraceptives and the morning-after pill.

The law also ensures the right to have an abortion in a state hospital. Currently, more than 80% of termination procedures in Spain are carried out in private clinics due to a high number of doctors in the public system who refuse to perform them due religious reasons.

Under the new system, state hospital doctors won’t be forced to carry out abortions, provided they’ve already registered their objections in writing.

Transgender rights

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

A separate package of reforms strengthens transgender rights and allows any citizen over 16 years old to change their legally registered gender without medical supervision. It also bans so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBTQ people and provides state support for lesbians and single women seeking IVF treatment.

Minors between 12-13 years old will need a judge’s authorization for the gender change, while those between 14 and 16 must be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.

Before the vote, Irene Montero told lawmakers that ‘trans people are not sick people, they are just people’. Previously, transgender people needed a diagnosis by several doctors of gender dysphoria.

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Sources used:

- The Washington Post: 'Need time off work for period pain? These countries offer ‘menstrual leave’'

- BBC News: 'Spain gives final approval to law making it easier to legally change gender'

- AP News: 'Spain approves menstrual leave, teen abortion and trans laws'

Menstrual leave: Should those who menstruate get ‘First Day Period Leave’? Menstrual leave: Should those who menstruate get ‘First Day Period Leave’?