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Why I Think Men Deserve Paternity Leave

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.

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Image source: Aaron Gilson/ FlickR
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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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