Women with endometriosis have been banned from serving in Spain's police force in a decision that has been called "degrading" and likened to "excluding all blonde people".
An estimated 10 per cent of women are affected by endometriosis, which can cause pelvic pain, heavy periods, painful bowel movements and infertility, meaning that thousands could be affected.
Gynaecologists say the interior ministry’s change to the list of health-related exclusions shows a lack of understanding of a common condition.
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"It's a real outrage," said Maribel Acién, head of gynaecology at the San Juan University Hospital in Alicante.
“To include it as a general exclusion seems degrading to me. Endometriosis affects a large number of the female population. It's like excluding all blonde people.”
“This is completely discriminatory, and excludes many women who are able to lead a normal life,” said Emi Escudero, spokeswoman for EndoSpain, an association that represents women with endometriosis.
Numerous celebrities, from Chrissy Teigen to Whoopi Goldberg, have opened up about their personal experiences, showing just how common the condition is.
Actress Susan Sarandon said she spent years “thinking of myself as someone who was weak and somewhat hysterical" before being diagnosed aged 36.
“Suffering should not define you as a woman!” Ms Sarandon told the Endometriosis Foundation of America. "It is not OK to miss a part of your life because of pain and excessive bleeding."
The government's decision, spotted by investigative journalism organisation Civio, puts the national police force out of step with Spain’s other security forces, such as the military and Guardia Civil, which consider endometriosis to be a bar to entering service only in severe cases where it “incapacitates” a woman.
Similarly, British police list endometriosis as a condition that should be assessed on a case-by-case basis to analyse its impact on a given candidate.
“It does not make sense that endometriosis in general is a reason for exclusion,” said Juan Antonio García Velasco, professor of gynaecology at Madrid’s Rey Juan Carlos University.
“A lot of women have the disease, but most of them are not incapacitated. Some can even be completely asymptomatic, while others can lead an absolutely normal life with medical treatment.”
The Telegraph approached Spain’s interior ministry for comment.
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