Paternity Bill in India: Patriarchy At Best

Indian State is expected to botch up any of the well-meaning intentions in its execution. The only comforting factor can be that at least the Indian State did mean well, leave aside the results. Though, the proposed Paternity Bill in India spectacularly fails even this base-level expectation.

I read about the introduction of Paternity Bill in Parliament. I felt happy that India’s politicians seem to be thinking finally about some fruitful actions concerning India’s children and their upbringing.

A cursory read into the clauses of the Paternity Bill and it is sure to bring down any expectations whatsoever.

Period of Paternity Leave

The maximum period of Paternity Leave shall be fifteen days, as per this proposed legislation. This has to be a joke. This cannot be serious. The men of India want to contribute to child upbringing. And what do they think should be sufficient? 15 days, that’s it.

If there was any doubt that there is some seriousness to this thought, the proposal of 15 days of paternity leaves surely ensures that a father’s duty is not to be considered worth-while.

What is the father expected to be doing in these 15 days? More importantly, what is the mother supposed to be doing after these 15 days?

Creation of a dedicated fund for Paternal benefit

The proposed bill reads “The government should constitute a Parental Benefit Scheme Fund in which all employees (irrespective of gender), employers and the Central government shall contribute in a pre-defined ratio”. That’s it.

There is no mention of what’s to be done with this money, who is going to withdraw, why, when, where? No details whatsoever.

Attitudinal changes

The proposed Paternity Bill states that this bill could act as a precursor to incremental attitudinal changes and the blurring of gender role distinctions.

Well, I must say that starting with 15 days of paternity leave is going to ensure that the incremental changes will go into the 23rd century, if not the 25th century.

What Could Have Been

The proposed Paternity Bill could have sparked a debate on the missing role of Indian father in upbringing of India’s future, work-family conflicts, deep-rooted gender stereotypes in Indian families, complete lack of role models to set an example for Indian fathers, public commitment to caregiving, contribution to housework, what constitutes child care and how it evolves over a period of time, role of the State in facilitating change, country’s cultural ideals about work and parenthood, social benefits, gender equality, paid work and child-rearing, having successful careers and fulfilling family lives, shared parenting leaves, dual earner-carer model that features women and men sharing breadwinning and child-rearing roles, help more people in more meaningful manner, do more to change society for the better etc.

But nothing of these sorts can be expected in India.

Conclusion

I suppose this subject of Paternity Bill is something like whoever speaks on it can present him to be a torch-bearer for women’s rights, someone who thinks about gender equality, someone who can be considered refined and suave, someone who is forward-looking and so, someone gets the bright idea and presents the paternity bill legislation in India. It is just that this is nothing but patriarchy at best. This is no way to raise a child.

Given the track record of Indian politicians, at least the lip service to the cause should be expected. Alas, the 15 days of paternity leave adds up to a mighty nothing. And there is nothing beyond this.

There is no participation of women in this proposed ground-breaking legislation. They would have felt that men are better left alone rather than needling them for a royal period of 15 days at home.

The proposed Paternity Bill has lapsed in the Indian parliament without any discussion, though it was introduced on July 21, 2017, in Loksabha. We shall see if there is any further movement on this subject in the newly elected Parliament after 6 months.

In the meanwhile, Indian men continue to be busy doing what they do best (!), the future generation of the country is of course blissfully unaware of all these and will go on to become the present generation of the country and perpetuate the problem.

My Stand

I have been very clear that for the man to have any meaningful role in the upbringing of the child, he has to contribute on a daily basis, starting with the household work right after marriage. I propose a paternal leave of 2 months per year. This has been detailed out in How to be a man – Raise a child.

Interesting questions asked by children

I wrote about the questions children ask. Our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, ask us continuously about everything under the sun and the sun, itself. Here is the list of their interesting questions, that stand out for the periodicity and the intensity that they get asked.

Death

The girls ask us – what we are to them. We answer – we are their parents. They ask – where are your parents. We identify them to our daughters. Again we get asked – where are the parents of our parents? Of the 8 people, only 2 are alive now. So, the question – where are the remaining 6?

Earlier, we told them that they have gone to a far-off place. This led to a barrage of questions. How far is the far-off place? Why cannot we go there? How did they go to this far-off place?

Unable to bear further, now we tell them that they have gone to God. My wife and I are agnostic but other than invoking God, I am not aware of any other option. This also raises further questions. Why have they gone to God? Have they gone on their own or have they been called? What are they doing there?

From somewhere, somehow; they have understood that elder people die. So, they want to know at what age one goes to God. We have been asked when we will die. We get asked whether we will be around when they grow up. I have warned my parents and in-laws that they might get asked about their demise, out of nowhere, so that they do not lose their balance.

There would hardly be 2-3 days gone-by without the question on the inevitable. I suppose they care about their own security and safety as to what will happen to them if their parents are not around.

We tell them that either of their parents will be there, if one dies, to take care of them. If both the parents die, they will have their grandparents and my wife’s elder sister to take care of them. Other than this, I do not know how to deal with this topic further.

Money

This has been an inadvertent addition to their questioning repertoire. The girls see that men are travelling on the roads. So, they ask what they are doing. I answer them that they are going to work. So, they ask why they work. I tell them that I suppose, they like to work, and they get paid money for that.

Now, comes the trick question from them. They ask me why I do not go to work. I tell them that being with them is my work. So, they ask me if I get paid for being with them. I answer no. So, a follow-up question – If I do not get paid, it means that I do not have money. I am stuck on how to deal with this.

In the meanwhile, they drop the sentence around that their father does not have enough money. I do want to stop this. However, it is also a reality that we are going to run out of money and I will be searching for a job soon. I cannot tell them that their father has good money. My wife disagrees with me that what is the use in telling it to children who will not understand this.

While we debate, the message is gone. I keep getting asked on a repeated basis if I have enough money.

My blogs

This is a result of my being unnecessarily over-smart. Whenever I am sitting idle or not doing anything worthwhile, according to them, I get asked what I am up to. I told them once-twice that I am thinking about my blogs. They asked me what I was thinking. I told them about how to make people read my blogs and that I do not know marketing. That did it.

Now, whenever, wherever, they see me sitting silently even for a moment, they start discussing with each other that I am thinking about my blogs.

They come around to me and tell me that someday, somebody will read my blogs. They are our little bundles of sunshine which keeps my wife and me going.

Poop, Action of strangers on the road, Mythology

Why is my poop pink in colour? Need I write more?

Raising children and being responsible citizens

Introducing Hindu mythology to children

Questions related to nature

This has been a recent addition to their questioning. B +ve asked that if animals and birds can drink dirty water on the roads and do not fall ill, why we cannot drink. O +ve asked that we can drink the water that falls from the sky, the rain, but once it falls down on to the ground, why does it become dirty? The question that both of them asks – The trees are so good, so helpful, why do humans cut them?

There is so much more to write about their questions. I will cover it in another post.

Conclusion

I understand that all the children are inquisitive by nature. Wondering, when and how this process to raise interesting questions for everything around slows down eventually and children start accepting the things, the way they are, without the urge to tear them apart. That is, when children become adults?

How did you handle the questions your children asked?