Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, has appeased and infuriated us with her statements. It’s her statements oscillating between sense and non sense that have generated such mixed responses in us.
While she claimed (last year) that marital rape cannot be recognized in our country because of our culture and any other non-sensical reason you can fathom, this year (when her pendulum of logical reasoning oscillated towards the ‘sense’ side) she declared that our Government is thinking of considering marital rape a criminal offence. “Very often a marital rape is not always about a man’s need for sex; it is only about his need for power and subjugation. In such case, it should be treated with seriousness,” she said.
Nothing concrete has been done in this regard is another thing.
Gandhi has oscillated towards the ‘non sense’ side this time which her fresh remark on paternity leave testifies.
Where did it come from?
Rajya Sabha passed a reformed Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill was passed due to the efforts of Maneka Gandhi and we commend her endeavours. It will give pregnant women the following advantages.
- The maternity leave has been increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks
- Women who undertake adoption or surrogacy will be allowed 12 weeks of leave
- New moms can work from home
- The leaves are paid
So, what’s the problem?
Certain women MPs and civil society members have urged the Government to think about Paternity leave as well lest maternity leave lead to non-production for women, reports the Indian Express. How?
- A long maternity leave distorts the proportion of household work and child care between mothers and fathers. While women will be given the leaves required, they’ll become solely responsible for taking care of their newborns and domestic work.
- Such long maternity leaves could result in a decline in the hiring of women employees owing to the employers’ hesitation. Pregnant women could also lose jobs, as is already going on according to a National Commission for Women Study of 2011, as the IE report suggests.
Maneka Gandhi’s response to paternity leave: “Paternity leave can be considered only if, once the woman goes back to work after her 26 weeks of leave, we find that men are availing their sick leave for a month to take care of the child. Let me see how many men do that. I will be happy to give it but for a man, it will be just a holiday, he won’t do anything.”
Why do we have a problem with her statement? Because for Gandhi, prejudice > equality.
Her remark is outright prejudiced. The contentions laid forth by the proponents of paternity leave make ample sense for the WCD Ministry to consider them valid. However, the WCD Minister has disregarded them owing to what is considered as the norm. She has succumbed to gender stereotypes and we cannot make sense out of it.
Little does she realize that her remark is regressive and opposes gender equality. It plays right into the hands of the stereotypes set for males and females over the years that only hamper our collective development as a nation. It’s high time we stop exclaiming “how cute” on seeing a man handling kids and consider it as normal as a woman doing the same thing.
Listen to what Aditya Tiwari, the man who set a record by becoming the youngest single father in India when he adopted a specially abled child, has to say about this matter:
Featured Image 1 (used for representation); 2.