Is there such thing as reverse gender discrimination?

Discrimination based in sex, as some argue, works both way. It is not only women experience unjust or unfair treatment because of their charasteristic, but some men also think and assert that they are discriminated againts women inherent charasteristics. Is this perception has ground, though?

In Indonesia, menstrual time off is stipulated in the Labour Law No. 13 of 2003. Women who feel pain could take 2 days time off if they feel pain during the first and secod day of their period. Although, some may argue differently, the state objective of such regulation is likely to protect women reproductive health, more than an affirmative action against discrimination because of women inherent charasteristics.

In some of the garment manufacturing in Indonesia, this one article in the Labour Law might perceived as a barrier to productivity. As an industry that is highly populated by women, mostly young, the thinking that every single female worker fromevery production line alternately taking one of two days off for menstrual time off is indeed very dreading. It could be imagine that companies must orchestrating a very fine tune production schedule to manuveur around this situation. That is impossible. With the fast pace industry that it is, how can garment factories losing their workers for one or two days every single month? So, what they do then is offering women 2 days additional pay if they don’t take menstrual time off. Not every woman feels pain during their period anyway. Case closed? Not so fast.

These additional 2 days pay per month (roughly around USD 20-30, depending on the regional minimum wage) are only offered to women. It is anyway, an additional incentive that is attached to women’s inherent charasteristic. Men do not have period. Their productivity does not halted by it. Some men that I met in garment factory, not only production workers but also those very experience external auditors, see this as discrimination or (this is how men watered it down) potential discrimination against men. Their logic is that women are rewarded if they have a full attendance in a month (for not taking time off for menstrual pain) but men are not. Well, I argued then that men, in this context, men do not have menstrual period, Companies do not have to anticipate that men will take a day of two of time off every month. It could always be asserted that men productivity will not be compromised by monthly period, So, it was only logical for companies to protect their production interest by only giving women a two days worth of pay for not taking menstrual time off. No discrimination here.

But is it though? Is it not a reverse discrimination? Afterall, men are being unfairly threated because, the only reason, they don’t have period. Well, those are very tough questions. First of all, whether or not this is related to the discrimination assertion, I disagree on a policy of replacing the rights to take time off with money. It is always be expected that in the case of blue collar job, or any job for that case, people are more likely than not to choose money over taking their statutory rights. They would give up that rights for a significant amount of money. By substituting rights with money, companies consiously rid the feeling of entitlement of the said rights.

Now to get back to the discrimination argument, indeed it feels very unfair. Why does women full attendance get rewarded and men’s don’t? Regardless the natural characteristic of the opposite sex, shouldn’t men also get rewarded for showing up at work every day in a month? Giving additional benefits only to women not because their sex but mainly because of production/business reasons, very much look like that there is no other logical argument not to provide men with the same benefits, despite of their sex.

This is quite complicated. Shouldn’t men take three months paid leave because of women also get three months paid leave for maternity? In the surface, the plain answer is NO. A perceived benefit that is attached no natural charasteristic should not and would not be taken as discrimination.

But, let’s take a step back for a moment. Let’s throw some more questions about the issue of reverse discrimination before we make judgement. Should equal treatment construe as providing the same to all blindly? Should mitigating reasonings considered when judging discrimation (i.e natural charasteristic)? Should the intent (in this example, of providing the benefit) matters more than the action? Is discrimination more about feelings (of unfairly or unjustly treatment) that facts?

Your answer to those questions may influence your last judgement whether or not the sample case in question a reverse dicrimination. For me, with more details to the case I am already quite persuaded to take a different position. Or at least I am moved from really sure (that it is not) to not quite sure about the whole thing.

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