Changes in family systems in India (from a joint family structure to nuclear families) have invited changes in the child-rearing and socialization process. The number of urban nuclear families in India is rising. Here, it is expected that the responsibility in terms of child and household care would be shared between the mother and the father. Contrary to the belief that the man is the breadwinner and the woman is the caretaker in a marriage, a father’s role during childbirth is as crucial as a mother’s. An article in Psychology Today says this about the father’s role:” “Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections.” Hence paternity leave at workplaces is as important as maternity leave.
An International Labour Organisation report states this about the role fathers can play: “Its (paternity leave) aim is to enable a father to assist the mother to recover from childbirth, which is also crucial in establishing breastfeeding, take care of the newborn as well as other children, attend to the registration of the birth and other family-related responsibilities.”
Workplaces and organisations need to recognise a father’s role in infant care. The preconceived notion that only women are entitled to devote their time to infant care is not only patriarchal but also gender-biased against men. The Paternity Leave bill tabled in the Parliament by Maharashtra MP Rajeev Satav, is representative of such men who were unfortunate to not have invested sufficient time towards childcare.
A father’s right to parenthood, which promotes gender equality and a positive socialization process of a child, must be recognized. This act will bring a learning opportunity for those who take the task of parenting for granted. A man involved in infant care is more likely to be attached with the child, which ensures a further positive and secured socialisation process for the child. A video on Paternity leave benefits by The Economist showed that it had a positive impact on the father’s mental health, the child’s learning abilities and the mother’s career.
An article published in The Atlantic quoted a report published by World Economic forum which described Paternity leave to be a form of social engineering, a behavior-modification tool that has been shown to boost male participation in the household, female participation in the labor force, and to promote gender equity in both domains.
India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. The childbearing age group is mainly between 25-35 years of age. Policies aimed towards this young population are the need of the hour. India is a young country in transition and policies such as Paternity leave is a step forward to bring equality in gender. We see gender bias in case of selection of women candidates at workplaces due to the fact that firstly women need to have long-term maternity leave and secondly they don’t return to work after childbirth. Paternity leave is a way forward to bring about the idea of shared parenting. This shall be helpful for women in not taking the burden of child-rearing single-handedly which shall also enable them to join their jobs again.
The proposed bill aims to benefit men in both formal and informal sectors. Rajiv Satav’s initial attempt to introduce the Paternity leave bill in March 2017 was denied in Lok Sabha, but he finally got the privilege on July 21. The major uproar of disagreement was heard from the Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi from BJP. She contested that men will misuse the leave and use it as a holiday. Such speculations are an embodiment of archaic stereotypes.
The government should be the moderator of change, rather than a body that tries to uplift tradition in the name of preconceived prejudices. There are certain provisions for employees working in the government sector to possess benefits of paternity leaves. The Central Government in 1999, by notification under Central Civil Services (Leave) Rule 551 (A) made provisions for paternity leave up to 15 days. The proposed bill states that all workers, including those in the unorganized and private sector, get paternity leave of fifteen days extendable up to three months.
A family deserves the right to have both the parents looking after the children and sharing responsibility. Such minor changes in societies can be a big leap forward to achieve many social, economic goals. The passing of this bill shall celebrate the intricate relationship between social (family), political (the state) and economical (workplace organizations) institutions of which every individual is a part.