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.
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.
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.
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.