By Shikhar S:
I am a big fan of The Newshour Debate, led by Arnab Goswami. I find these debates very entertaining and informative. I live overseas and have been here for a while now and I choose to learn about the issues related to India mostly from these debates that are posted on their YouTube channel.
Today, I watched a debate on the issue of paternity leave, and the discussion was whether this leave would be misused by men and taken for granted instead of caring for their newborn children.
I want to give my two cents on this topic.
I am not married and not a father, but perhaps someday I will be, and I do not want to be refused a leave on the grounds that I may misuse it.
It is so embarrassing to see that women activists who claim to be actively participating in all issues related to women and family, often leave out an equally important element of the family – the father.
Such mindsets are not only destructive to familial progress but are also quite regressive.
Self-proclaimed female activists, in my opinion, are no better or worse and in fact downright narrow-minded, like those men who think that a woman belongs in the kitchen, and the upbringing of a child is the sole responsibility of a woman.
The female panellists introduced in The NewsHour Debate are respected, well-known, and successful women who make a strong claim that the Indian men somehow lack the integrity to be a father and would not like to fulfil their duties as a father. They also enforce that after childbirth, up to 6 months, a father plays no role in the child’s upbringing since a ‘he’ cannot breastfeed.
If there is such a thing as male-misogyny then I guess this is it! Some women can behave exactly the same way some men behave and they don’t even realise it!
In this progressive nation, we should be working towards gender equality and neutrality in every walk of life. Instead, leading female politician like Shazia Ilmi, reiterates her opinion that Indian men are not caring fathers and they don’t want to take charge of nurturing their child and yet she fails to present any facts or evidence.
Another panellist, Ms Aishwarya Bhati, Advocate of the Supreme Court also blemishes the image of a progressive and a millennial woman. Being a member of law community, she could not present one hard fact which suggests that Indian men are rendered useless as a parent. Instead, she chooses to side with Maneka Gandhi.
From what I know about Maneka Gandhi, she is not an ideal woman to be leading the chair of Women & Child Welfare, and her supporters are simply borrowing her opinions on this issue without giving it a think.
Paternity leave, like maternity leave, is extremely important because if a man is not allowed time with his new-born child, how can he share the same experiences as his wife??
The typical Indian mindset says that only a man must provide for his family and a woman must bear his child and care for her home. But this mindset has already been challenged by so many women who maintain a perfect work-life balance, and some are even married to men who prefer to work from home.
But why is it the sole responsibility of a man to make a living when his partner gets to spend time with their child?
Is it because someone has to make a living to pay off the expenses?
Isn’t it a sexist view to think that men exist only to earn money?
Aren’t men good parents too?
By keeping the man engaged to his primary duties as the head of a household, he is also being pulled away from a new member of his family. Saying that despite his feelings, when given a leave he is prone to misuse it, is a very sexist and misandristic statement that can ever come from an activist like Ranjana Kumari, Director of Center for Social Research.
Paternity leave is not only a right but also a need for any willing father in this world. It should not be bounded to foreigners or Indians but equal for all. Regardless of the current trends in India, there are several fathers who care and nurture their children with love and affection, and for that, they deserve a huge appreciation.