It's just got worse for new parents in India

While amendments to the Maternity Bill have been hailed, Surrogacy Bill has been critiqued for being moralistic.

 |  4-minute read |   02-09-2016
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If you’re already a parent and reading this (of course you are, why else would you), let me say, be happy you’ve had your kid/s. Because, the last few weeks have brought in some much conflicting news for parents, and I can’t quite decide whether the near future is going to be a good time to become a parent or not.

First came the amendments to the Maternity Bill, hailed as a great step forward in encouraging women to come back to work after having babies. With six months of paid maternity leave, it definitely tilts the scale in favour of working women. Then, the clamour started for paternity leave, to which Maneka Gandhi responded by saying that if she had any hope that the father would actually be useful and not treat it as just a holiday, she’d consider it.

Also read: What the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill means for mothers

Unfortunately, I’d have to somewhat agree with her.

In India, most families, nuclear or joint, have a support structure in place when they have their children, and dads usually play a small role when it comes to being core caregivers. Either the women of the family feel they know it all and dads themselves feel a little nervous and awkward around their babies or they’re just relieved to be absolved of the responsibility of caring for a newborn.

What I’ve usually observed is that they get far more involved after a few months. That’s usually when the mom, mom-in-law and other family members go back to their own homes, and also when the baby starts to respond and become a little easier to manage and handle.

So yes, paternity leave after a few months may make more sense than immediately.

Also read: Why Maternity Benefit Bill won't do much good to women

pregobd_090216101035.jpg The amendments to the Maternity Bill have been hailed as a great step forward in encouraging women to come back to work after having babies.

The other big news, of course, was the new bill on surrogacy, and while it has been expected for a while, it has also been critiqued for being moralistic in its scope.

For example, single mothers cannot opt for surrogacy. Even married couples who may not be able to conceive (whether naturally or through assisted reproductive techniques, read IVF etc.) will either have to wait five years and prove they’ve been trying to have a baby before they can opt for surrogacy, adopt, or find a family member who will agree to carry the baby to term.

Also read - Whose womb is it anyway: Everyone but the mother's in India

This is going to become a big problem, I fear.

The fact is, infertility is on the rise. According to a report in 2013, a pharma company conducted a Helping Families survey in nine Indian cities, and found that of the 2,562 people who participated in the survey, nearly 46 per cent were found infertile.

Talk to any expert and you will hear that research suggests there has been a 20-30 per cent rise in infertility in the last five years in India.

In light of these statistics, the move could make adoption far more acceptable, and also eventually reduce the societal stigma associated with lending your womb to a family member, or, as I suspect, it could increase corruption and make surrogacy just like the kidney transplant business.

So, people requiring a transplant still get a donor they are not related to, money still gets transferred, and touts now facilitate the process. This could very well be the route surrogacy may take. And, the reason I’m drawing a comparison between the two is because both involve exploitation in some sense and are aimed at securing the rights of the underprivileged who are endangering their bodies for commercial gain.

When it comes to brass tacks, it is probably easier to get a relative to donate a kidney; this means saving a life, it’s altruistic, and definitely has no stigma attached. But imagine asking your sister to carry your baby or your husband’s sister. Unlike a kidney transplant, this is not about life and death.

The way I see it, it’s just become one step tougher to have a child. Many urban couples are already opting for one child or none. That number could well increase in times to come.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Writer

Geetika Sasan Bhandari Geetika Sasan Bhandari @geetika_sb

The writer is a former deputy editor, India Today Digital.

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