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Mumma's baby, papa's maybe?

DNA is a double-stranded polymer of nucleotides. Abhishek Kabra, a student from the department of MCJ, Tezpur University pens down about paternity leave.

Mumma’s baby, papa’s maybe?

Sentinel Digital Desk

Abhishek Kabra

(Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University. He can be reached at

A DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid is usually a double-stranded polymer of nucleotides. However, while writing about this in his school, maybe a Prime-Time news anchor made a spelling mistake. He read 'stranded' as 'standard' and thus, every night there's a national news channel running a programme of similar standards and not very different name.

While reading the theme and the headline, you might feel why did I mention the same in an article about paternity leave. However, it is because of the show that people who were already divided on their opinions about paternity leave went to use 'patriotism' as armour to oppose the concept of such leave. In recent times, Virat Kohli, the Captain of Indian Men's Cricket Team took paternity leave and all at a sudden, it became a pinata for the news channels to smash and expect some fast TRP to fall.

Firstly, when paternity leave and patriotism are brought into comparison, we need to look at it from a wider perspective. When a father who takes paternity leave, no matter he is 'Virat Kohli' or my father, he is actually being more patriotic. Because, by taking such leave, he is giving a message to the society that parenthood is not just about motherhood but equally fatherhood. He is laying stones for a patriarchy affected nation to re-think the notions concerning the pre-fixed 'gender roles' where, in a heterosexual relationship, a father is expected to be a bread-earner and a mother to take care of the household. When a child is born in an environment where she/he receives more of maternal care and sees her/his father managing the family purse, the first prints of gender inequality are imbibed in the minds of the children. And with this getting continued, patriarchy triumphs, as always, the case has been. So, in such an unequal world, someone taking or allowing a paternity leave is highly patriotic and another 'national duty.' The faster it spreads, the greater is the intensity of building a gender-neutral nation. Our Constitution speaks about Right to Equality and paternity leave, thus can be a big step in making this constitutional right attained.

Second, there are debates over the number of days the paternity leaves should be given. In India, it is as low as 15 days for the father, in comparison to countries like Norway, Finland or Japan. To the people who have a habit of comparing our country to just Pakistan need to have a look at the world map and realise that there are countries beyond it, doing better than us. But, to utter contrary, this time they can pick Pakistan in real sense. As, their paid paternity leave, though not enough, is more than India. The number of days becomes an important factor because, the early care that an infant needs, could be shared by both the parents.

Thirdly, let us dig into the matter deeper. There's a bubble of toxic masculinity pervading the Indian Society. People still expect fathers to be 'tough' and men to not exhibit their emotions. And the corollary to such beliefs is that emotionally expressive men are weak. And a paternity leave, in this regard can be a strong tool to counter this mindset to the extent that people normalise a father being equally emotionally involved, in the journey of raising a child.

Fourth, can everyone take paternity leave? For a family like that of a male tea garden worker in Assam, who is struggling highly with a low daily wage, a leave of such kind, if unpaid, is more harmful. The more vulnerable people in this regard are the labourers of the unorganised sector who do not have a fixed workplace. In case a condition of taking such a leave arises, there is no one he could ask leave from. And thus, until economic support comes for families with such income, paternity leave, at times, will remain a distant dream, they know, they might not be able to avail or even long for. The trade Unions can play a crucial role in this regard by ensuring that the families, an amount of money so that the parents can take care of their child better, and together.

Fifth, there is conclusive evidence on how Indian rules of parental leaves consider parenthood as. In October 2020, Union Minister Jitendra Singh announced that a single male parent can take paid paternity leave up to two years. Our law on paternity leave, then, is not merely narrow in terms of the beneficiary class, but also, is based on the assumption that taking care of the child is primarily the responsibility of the mother. And by confining this leave to only single male parents, this government announcement simply reinforces this assumption. It establishes the role of the father in raising a child as a last resort, rather than a matter of ordinary gender relations.

Last, paternity leave is not just about childcare. But it is about being with the partner who is going to give birth to the child. In India, when a lady discloses a secret, their husband or other men say, 'Aurat ke pet me bachaa tik jaata h, lekin baat nahi tikti', which translates to English as, 'Women can hold babies in their stomach, but not a secret'. A pregnant woman goes through either a 'normal delivery', which is an arduous exercise of child-birth or C-Section, which again is major surgery, to give birth to the child. And when a man uses this entire process as a mockery to compare things like disclosing a secret, while talking to his friends sipping a cup of tea, it establishes the fact that the person could never get ample time to see his partner going through the process. A paternity leave, in this regard, can do wonders where men will get time to help the women, recuperate from this difficult exercise of giving birth to a child.

It is painful to see many companies looking at a pregnant woman or a woman returning after child-birth from an uncomfortable glance. A news channel from Assam even removed one such pregnant employee in 2020. But when men too will be taking such leaves, the work-position of such women will be dignified. The world is not binary; neither is love, nor are the relationships. And many companies have provided parental leaves for the non-heterosexual couples too, which is a good sign, though, the same needs to be more inclusive in nature.

We all have DNAs in our body. Just like DNAs we have brains and a group of nerves that are busy in encoding and decoding signals for the brain and thus forms, the human thought process. We need to make the most out of them so that the full form of DNAs stay confine to Deoxyribonucleic Acids and not 'Did No Analysis'. Let the Mumma's baby be Papa's too.

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