Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, who is facing criticism over the maternity bill and its “failure” to provide any relief to fathers-to-be, on Friday said in future there could be a “more sophisticated” legislation to address these concerns.
She also denied having said “paternity leave will be just a holiday” in an interview to a national daily. “I didn’t actually say that. I said men already have sick leave. They need to use that when they have babies and then we will proceed on that,” Gandhi said.
“I look forward to a time when there will be a joint responsibility by both parents. It is an ideal situation and we are working towards that. The first step in the pursuit of giving care to a new born child is the Maternity Bill and maybe the next step will be more sophisticated,” she said.
Maternity Benefit Bill 2016 was passed in the Rajya Sabha earlier this month and is likely to be taken up in the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session. The bill proposes to extend maternity leave from the current 12 weeks to 26 weeks but has no mention for leave for fathers.
Currently, there is no legislation mandating compulsory leave for fathers in private sector. Though men in government service biological as well as adoptive fathers can take 15 days of paid leave.
Several MPs had pointed out this lacuna while the bill was taken up for discussion in Rajya Sabha. Independent MP Anu Agha, Congress’ Rajni Patil and NCP’s Vandana Chavan had sought provisions for paternity leave in the bill.
“The government should also address the hidden biases against working women...the father too is responsible for raising a child,” Rajni Patil had demanded. “Men leave childcare to their wives and glorify motherhood,” Agha had told the House.