According to articles in the BBC and the Hindustan Times, the new health appraisal forms for civil servants in India now require women Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers to disclose details about their menstrual cycles and when they last sought maternity leave.
To quote Sharwari Gokhale, a civil servant in Maharashtra, "It's gob smacking."
Many women have strenously objected to the new form, stating that their mentstrual cycles have no effect on their ability to do their work efficiently and competently. And since they already have to submit official forms when they request maternity leave, why would they need to remind their supervisors about past leave during their yearly health appraisal? The information is so easily accessible anyway. Seema Vyas, one of the joint secretaries for administration in Maharashtra, made this rather salient point to the BBC:
"Menstrual cycles are a natural phenomenon, they are not an aberration. One does not object to questions related to fitness levels - they are important as they can affect work. But there is no need for these details as this does not have any bearing on our work. (Also) when we apply for maternity leave, we put in the appropriate application and the government already has those records, so why ask again?"
Meanwhile, Satyanand Mishra, a secretary in the Ministry of Personnel, had only this to say: "We sought the ministry's help to draw up a health-history format. I assume this will help evaluate the officer's fitness."
The obvious implication is that a woman's bodily functions are such an obstacle to getting work done that it's an employer's responsibility to monitor them to ensure the continued smooth running of the office's work. As it is, menstruation is such a shame-inducing topic for so many women in South Asia, and this only reinforces the prevailing idea of a monthly period as being a doorway to pollution, disfunction, and general squirm-inducing nastiness. When she's on the rag, the woman employee is no longer an efficent, impersonal cog in the bureaucratic (or corporate, or anything, really) machinery. She is suddenly back in touch with her basic, bloody, animal functions, a creature whose potential weepies and crampies have the possibility of disrupting the everyday functions of the workplace and thus needs to be carefully supervised and observed. Kind of like a werewolf during the full moon. It's the ultimate in Foucaultian surveillance, using the guise of professionalism and responsible record-keeping as a way of reproducing and regulating shame.
If you wish to contact Satyanand Mishra, the secretary in the Ministry of Personnel, and tell him what an unskooled fool he is, you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or check out this website for more detailed contact info. In the meantime, to counteract this madness, I leave you with a happy tampon to contemplate. Enjoy!