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Maternity bill ‘wasted’ chance to bring gender parity at workplace: Congress

Congress demanded the government include a non-discrimination clause in the bill to avoid discrimination for availing parental benefits.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
Updated: March 10, 2017 11:30:09 am

The Congress on Thursday hit out at the government for not giving recognition to paternity leave in the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and termed it a “wasted” opportunity in bringing gender parity at workplace. The opposition party also demanded that the government include a non-discrimination clause in the bill so no person is discriminated against in employment for having availed any parental benefits.

Watch Video | Budget Session 2017: Maternity Benefit Bill Passed By Lok Sabha

“The Congress party condemns the fact that there is no recognition of paternity leave and this move fails to initiate attitudinal changes towards perception of women as bread earners. Such a move by the government stereotypes women into their traditional gender roles.

“The government has also wasted an opportunity to bring gender parity at the workplace by recognising that child care is the responsibility of both parents and not just the mother,” party spokesperson Sushmita Dev said.

She said there are several labour laws that provide maternity benefits to women in different sectors and such laws differ in their coverage, benefits and financing of benefits.

“There needs to be cohesion between various laws for beneficiaries to fruitfully avail benefits.

“The Congress party demands that the government include a non-discrimination clause in the bill so that no person is discriminated against in employment for having availed any parental benefits,” she said in a statement.

Dev said without this government’s attempt to introduce amendments for increasing female work force participation which is only 21.9 per cent is “shallow and empty”.

The Congress leader said the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, if fully implemented, will benefit only 18 lakh women in the organised sector leaving out practically 99 per cent of the country’s women workforce.

She also lamented that the amendment will benefit only a minuscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country’s unorganised sector such as contractual workers, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives.

Dev also pointed out that by excluding adoptive fathers recognised under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015; surrogate mothers recognised under the Draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016; and transgender parent this bill is biased against parents recognised by Indian laws. She said the Bill introduces maternity leave up to 12 weeks for a woman who adopts a child below the age of three months, and for commissioning mothers.

“The amendment is biased against an adopted child above three months of age as in such a case the adoptive mother will not be granted maternity leave.

“Not only does this provision overlook the rigorous adoption procedures under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 that would make it difficult to adopt a child below three months,” she said.

Dev said this amendment also does not borrow from the Guidelines Governing Adoption of Children, 2015 which provides adoptive leave to parents irrespective of the age of the child.

“Has the focus of lawmakers only been on children that need to be breastfed? Are the needs of a grown up child adopted in a new household any less than a newborn requiring nutritional enrichment?

“By taking such a restrictive view not only are the provisions of this Bill biased against the adoptive mother but also defeat the larger vision of welfare of all children irrespective of age,” she asked.

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