Indian Men Need Paternity Leave And These 5 Dads Explain Why

SansadUnplugged logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #SansadUnplugged, a campaign by Young Leaders for Active Citizenship India and Youth Ki Awaaz where your elected representatives engage directly with you on key policy issues that matter. Find out more and engage with those you vote for here.

Just before his son’s birth in 2015, Md. Azim Ud Doula spent a full week at home with his wife, preparing for the delivery. Soon after, the 29-year-old development sector professional had to return to his Patna office, while his wife and baby remained in Kolkata.

A man holds up a young child in a natural pool
For representation only.

I would go home once a month, and spend two or three days with him,” says Azim, ruefully. “It was only in photographs that I was seeing him grow.” This arrangement continued for six whole months before Azim decided to move his whole family to Patna.

Azim’s is the story of many young dads in India, who want to play a larger part in their children’s lives, but find themselves in a fix because of the societal expectations placed on working men.

And even though we know care work should be equally divided between mums and dads, child care continues to be “women’s work.” Take the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act 2016. It has increased the leave period to 26 weeks, and directed workplaces with over 50 employees to provide creche services. But even this hard-won victory (for so many working mums in the organised sector) reinforces the idea that only women should be involved in child care.

 

That policies just don’t enable fathers to take on care work is also problematic. Attesting to this, 61-year-old consultant Arun Joseph* tells me “I don’t know anybody who has accessed paternity leave. In none of the places that I’ve worked have I ever heard of paternity leave.”

When Joseph’s second daughter was born 17 years ago, there really were no measures in place. “I said I should be entitled to paternity leave, and the lady who headed the organisation I was at said ‘Alright! Give him his paternity leave!’ I took a couple of weeks off, but I took it against my annual leave.

53-year-old Rajeev Manocha had something similar to share. While working at the Delhi High Court, he took only three or four days off after his child was born. He recalls: “Government service mein mujhe koi benefit nahi mila. Kehte the ki ‘Dikkat hai toh chhutti lele, hum dedete hain’ (I never had any paternity benefits in government service. They would say, ‘If you have a problem, take leave, we’ll oblige you’).” This was standard operating procedure in India. Being an involved father meant doing it on your own time.

Where’s The Paternity Leave In India?

Photo credit: Foter.com

There is no blanket policy for fathers working across sectors in India. Thanks to the All India Services (Leave) Rules 1955, at least male government employees are entitled to paternity and child adoption leave. But when it comes to the private sector, leave depends entirely on the employers’ wishes.

Still though, several workplaces offer some pretty commendable paternity leave policies. As of January this year, Deutsche Bank grants employees 6 months paternity leave. And Facebook too is getting things right.

“Facebook has a really generous paternity leave policy,” says Ritesh, who works as a policy programmes head for the mammoth social network. “Globally, a new dad gets 4 months of paternity leave, and you don’t have to take it all at one go.

According to him, the tech industry seems to be doing better. “Outside of tech it’s mostly unheard of. My friends are surprised and ask ‘Why would you get leave? We had to take time off.’”

Wheels Of The Men-Aren’t-Involved-At-Home Bus Go Round And Round

The absence of a policy is also the absence of a possibility that dads should take an equal share of child care. When asked if there was stigma attached to this, most dads I spoke with agreed that this was the case.

Here’s what Azim had to say: “Whenever I work at home, or massage my son, or wash clothes, people tend to say things about my wife, like ‘kaisi aurat hai, apne husband ko kaam karati hai’ (What kind of woman makes her husband do this work).

And Ritesh says: “When I take my son out for a walk every evening, I’m usually the only dad doing that. I met a lady who said her husband wants to do that but he doesn’t come out because he doesn’t see any other dads doing it!

Last August, Maneka Gandhi made the comments about paternity leave.

I also spoke to Satish Raju, 40, and an advertising professional. He heads Guru Media & Entertainment, which recently increased its paternity leave to 15 days. But while dad-time is well-recognised at his workplace, he too had some shocking instances to share: “A male friend of mine was actually asked ‘Is there something wrong with your baby?’ It was out of concern, but it’s harsh to say that only when your baby is unwell you need to be there!“More time with their kids is something dads want but don’t get. For example, since returning to work, Ritesh says he spends two hours looking after his child on weekdays, and four on weekends.

Ankit Dutta*, another development sector professional speaks to me about how much time he is able to spend with his 5-month-old son. For him, weekends are great, “But weekdays I only have 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. Every moment is important, because you see a lot of changes in your kid, and you wouldn’t want to miss those things! But you’re working eight to 10 hours, and you also have to sleep! I would say you need 6 to 8 hours with your kid, of course even this is not enough.”

There is a bonding process you need to undergo with your family!” Says Raju. “And it’s important to be aware of things, like the shots your baby gets at the hospital and all of that.

After his own child was born earlier this year, Raju too found he wanted more time off, and is considering reworking his workplace’s paternity leave policy. “I feel I’d like to give my guys one month off. And if they want to extend it, we can look at it, I’m open to that! In advertising, you can work from home too, so something like that can be put in place.

Photo credit: seeveeaar via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

It’s Not Just Dads Who Benefit

One of the glaring problems with the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act is that it will affect the inflow or retention of women in the workplace. Companies that have to bear the expenses of maternity leave are likely to cut back on the number of women they hire. And this is at a time when the number of working women quitting mid-career is at a high 48%. This is why prioritising paternity benefits in the workplace is important to make sharing child care a reality.

So how do we do it? Iceland has set a unique example with its 3-3-3 policy. It allows for one parent to take leave for first three months, the other parent for the next three months, and the remainder is divided between them, as they see fit.

Commenting on such a policy, Dutta says: “It sounds very exciting, and it makes sense! Even the father should know what the mother goes through. You can’t think that ‘kuchch nahi hota, it’s an easy job’. There’s a lot of things the mother goes through the whole day – so going out would be a good change.

Azim too favours the idea, but prefers a more long-term parental leave policy. “In the 18 years of a child’s life, the father should be able to take say 2 years of leave – I don’t want to miss my child’s first day of school, parent-teacher meetings, supporting him during his board exams.

Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

According to him, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done if we’re really aiming for equality when it comes to raising children in India: “It is important to actually make people ready for parenthood. People getting married and becoming parents – are you ready, mentally and physically? Are you investing on changing the perception of fathers? We later on say that children grow up with gender bias, or boys need to be oriented to respect women, but have you done that with their fathers?

In far too many cases, the answer to most of these questions is a disappointing “no.” But that’s exactly why we need to start changing things. With the maternity benefits bill already in place, the corollary is something similar for fathers. And that’s exactly what MP Rajeev Satav introduced the Paternity Benefit Bill in July last year, during the Monsoon session of the Lok Sabha. Should his Bill be enacted, it could really change the way both childcare and household work is distributed between mothers and fathers across India. And wouldn’t that be a change for the better?

*names changed.

Tell us your thoughts and observations on this Bill. Your article will contribute to the way your elected representatives are presenting bills, defining policies and creating change in the Parliament. Response article will be shared with respective Member of Parliament, and in many cases - suggestions are included in the drafting of future policies.

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below