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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian lawmaker has asked parliament to give women two days paid leave a month when they menstruate, a move that has irked rights activists worried over creeping conservatism since Vladimir Putin resumed the presidency.
Mikhail Degtyaryov, a member of the nationalist LDPR party led by the outspoken Vladimir Zhirinovsky, wrote on his website that he had proposed a draft law to increase the protection of women at the workplace.
"During that period (of menstruation), most women experience psychological and physiological discomfort. The pain for the fair sex is often so intense that it is necessary to call an ambulance," said Degtyaryov, 32, who is married with two sons.
Degtyaryov, a candidate in a Moscow mayoral election on September 8 who is polling at less than one percent support, said pain during menstruation heightened fatigue, reduced memory and efficiency at work, and provoked distinct emotional discomfort.
The State Duma lower house of parliament does not meet again until September but human rights campaigners have already dismissed the proposal as sexist.
"This argument is obviously improper, unreasonable and nothing close to being serious," said Anna Sobko, a lawyer at Memorial, Russia's oldest human rights group.
Marina Pisklakova-Parker, head of women's group Anna Center, said the proposal was absurd.
"If we are seriously debating women's efficiency at work during menstruation, we should also consider how fit for work men are after a drinking bout," she said.
Rights activists said they did not see the Kremlin's hand behind the proposal. But the opposition says there has been a drift towards more conservatism attitudes in Russian politics since Putin returned to the presidency in May last year and started courting the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church.
Parliament has since then enacted what critics see as a series of repressive laws, including one banning "homosexual propaganda" which has been widely condemned in the West.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage, Ron Askew