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The Stigma Around Paternity Leave in India


In November of 2020, it was announced that the captain of the Indian cricket team, Virat Kohli, would be taking a paternity leave to prepare for the birth of his child. This sent Indian cricket fans into an uproar claiming that he had a national duty to fulfill and that it was his wife’s job to take care of the baby. They compared him to the previous captain, M.S. Dhoni, who had missed the birth of his daughter because of an ongoing World Cup. Even in 2021, India seems to be clinging on to old-fashioned and frankly sexist ideals that do not reflect the world that we are all working towards. Unfortunately the stigma around paternity leave in India is deeply embedded in our society. It stems from centuries of gender roles in which women were seen as the sole caregiver and men were only required to provide material necessities. While the rest of the world is taking steps in the right direction, India doesn't seem to have caught up.


Image by Gustavo Fringe



Paternity Leave Provisions in India


In August, 2020, Union Minister Jitendra Singh declared that male government workers who are single guardians may take paid childcare leave of upto two years to deal with a minor. This change apparently advances gender equity. However, a more critical look is needed to survey whether it can truly clear a way for more equal gender relations.


Under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, as amended in 2017, female employees of establishments with 10 or more workers can take 26 weeks of paid leave, up to eight weeks of which can be claimed before the delivery of the child. While there is no provision for paternity leave under the Indian labour law, under the Central Civil Services (Leave) Rules, 1972, male government employees are entitled to paternity leave for a period of 15 days so that they can take care of their wife and the new-born. (1) This leave can be taken only when the father has less than two surviving children and he can avail the leave of 15 days before or within 6 months from the date of birth of the child. If the father does not avail paternity leave within that period, it will be considered as lapsed. However, this law does not pertain to private companies. The Indian law on paternity leave isn't just incredibly limited as far as the recipient class, but by all accounts is dependent on the assumption that taking care of a child is principally the mother's duty. By restricting the leave to single male parents, the law reinforces this stereotype. Mr. Rajeev Satav M.P. , Lok Sabha notes, "The absence of paternity leave is reflective of a stereotype that child care is the sole responsibility of the mother. An effective policy outlining paternity leave will be instrumental in bringing about a change in attitude and bridge gender divide in matters of child care." (2)


Why is Paternity Leave Important?


The accessibility of sufficient paternity leave would not just permit the father to bond with his child as much as the mother, but in addition advance the likelihood that the child would grow up sharing a solid relationship with both parents instead of just one. The child would be able to witness the sharing of parental and caregiving responsibilities between the two genders, rather than boxing women into the role of caregivers and men into the role of bread-earners. (3) Parenting is, and ought to be, an undertaking shared equally between parents. In addition to the fact that this would make each parent a more fulfilled worker, if the financial contention should be made, it would go far towards changing the cliché gender dynamics at home as well as in the work environment.



Image by Tatiana Syrikova



The availability of paid paternity leave would imply that men can, and have the motivation to, ease the pressure off of their spouses. Putting the responsibility of childcare solely on the shoulders of women usually forces them to take long leave from work. This establishes a structure that places them at a disadvantage in the workplaces and may even cause them to quit completely. (4)




Paternity Leave in Europe


The difference between the paternity leave laws in India and in European countries is quite staggering. As of this summer, paid paternity leave in France will be doubled from 14 to 28 days, and fathers will be required to take at least a week off work after their babies are born. President Emmanuel Macron announced,“When a baby arrives in the world, there is no reason it should be just the mother who takes care of it.” France will join Lithuania and Spain in offering fathers four weeks of paid leave.


However, other European countries are considerably more generous. In Portugal, fathers can take upto five weeks of paternity leave, while Finland offers upto nine weeks off. Taking it one step further, the Finland government announced that paternity leave will be extended to seven months later this year. In Germany and Sweden, fourteen months of paid leave can be shared between both parents. (5)


Indian culture should affirm this level of devotion rather than disparage it, and to do that, we need to make taking leave an accessible choice for all parents - mothers and fathers, working poor and middle class.

In Conclusion


The stigma around paternity leave in India is unfounded. There have been many proven benefits to paternity leave which would steer the archaic standards of indian society in a direction more befitting the global society India strives to be a part of. With a future generation made up of individuals familiar with households in which both parents—and by extension, genders—hold an equal level of responsibility within the household; the future of India would be able to evolve into a country populated by those who live by ideologies of gender equality and develop a tolerance of that which deviates from archaic and outdated traditions and societal norms.


With this in mind, the progression of this utopian ideal is possible only if India, as a nation, attempts to match and adhere to the exemplified laws set by other European nations. To exist within the same economic and societal parameters of these nations, it is feasible only if the same norms are abided by within India, an occurrence which is achievable only if those in positions of power are able recognise the importance of gender equality within this nation.


DCI’s main goal is to decode encrypted news for an enlightened citizen

Tanya Tavora, Journalist at Décryptage Citoyen International

August 10th, 2021


Bibliography:


  1. The Indian Express. 2021. A fatherhood more fulfilling. [online] Available at: <https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/a-fatherhood-more-fulfilling-7013342/> [Accessed 16 December 2020].

  2. Indiatvnews.com. 2021. Is Paternity leave a social stigma?. [online] Available at: <https://www.indiatvnews.com/lifestyle/news-is-paternity-leave-a-social-stigma-459040> [Accessed 16 December 2020].

  3. Lloyd, M., 2021. Paternity leave still comes with social stigmas: survey - NEWS 1130. [online] NEWS 1130. Available at: <https://www.citynews1130.com/2019/04/23/paternity-leave-social-stigmas/> [Accessed 17 December 2020].

  4. The Indian Express. 2021. A fatherhood more fulfilling. [online] Available at: <https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/a-fatherhood-more-fulfilling-7013342/> [Accessed 17 December 2020].

  5. Nytimes.com. 2021. France Doubles Paid Paternity Leave to 28 Days, One of Europe’s Most Generous Plans. [online] Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/24/world/europe/france-paternity-leave.html> [Accessed 29 December 2020].


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