The Indian Parliament recently passed the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill and made it a law. This law is widely being celebrated and boasted by the government as well as the citizens. However, every coin has two sides and so does this law and it’s up to each one of us to decide which side is heavier. I will first begin with the positive aspect.
The changes proposed in the new law are certainly beneficial for all the mothers expecting a child or adopting one. The major amendment is the extension of the paid maternity leave to 26 weeks from the existing 12 weeks. This will give more time to the mothers to rejuvenate themselves as well as spend some quality time with their newborn. Also, the compulsion of crèche facilities in the organisations is a step in the right direction. All these changes will encourage more and more women to enter the workforce either through the organised or unorganised sector. This is not only beneficial for women empowerment but will also help in boosting our economy. Another positive side is that through this act, India has entered the list of 42 countries which provides more than 18 weeks of maternity leave to the mothers, certainly something to be proud about. These are few of the reasons which make this law a blessing for the goddesses without which human life couldn’t have existed. They have compromised and sacrificed a lot all their life majorly for doing justice to their role as a mother. Indeed, they deserve this gift in return. However, what is not being debated is the other side of the coin.
The first thing which makes me sceptical about this law is the name itself i.e. “MATERNITY” Benefit Act. Once again the responsibility of nourishing and upbringing the child has been put on the weak strong shoulders of mothers. Although the act has made the changes in favour of the females but unfortunately it ends there. There isn’t a single mention about the other parent’s duty – the privileged one (father). There is no provision for the father to visit the crèche at least once in a day if not four times. Also, there isn’t a single clause which encourages the father to take a leave in order to take care of the mother or their own child. Once again the male is allowed to continue with his daily routine while his better half takes a backseat. Yes, the mother has to stop her work for a while since nature has designed the evolution process in that manner. But that shouldn’t free the fathers from their duties towards their wives or child. And mind you earning isn’t the only duty a father has to perform. Although this act may encourage the females to enter the workforce but the employers won’t be eager to employ them since they will be considered a liability rather than an asset. So it would have been better if there was a shared responsibility, thus sharing the inequality equally.
I was really keen to know the nitty-gritty of this much-awaited law but I was quite disappointed. I would have been happier if the name would be “PATERNITY” Benefit Act. At least there would have been a ray of hope in the much needed revolutionary process in the field of motherhood PARENTHOOD. Another good thing would have been to provide at least a few paid leaves to the father as well. This would have motivated a few males who realize their duties as a father. After all, a huge revolution begins from a few individuals only. There could have been provisions which talk about the shared responsibility of both the parents instead of just the mother.
All-in-all, this is certainly a progressive law but there is a lot more to achieve if we really desire to give equal rights to each individual irrespective of the gender. Working and being independent is a basic human right and nobody should be deprived of it just because of nature’s design.
No law would be required if we didn’t belong to a patriarchal society so I would like to sum up all my points in one sentence-
“It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.”