Whether in Reproductive Health or Family Planning, the Role of the Man Should Be Part of Policy

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), February 17, 2018 | Go to article overview

Whether in Reproductive Health or Family Planning, the Role of the Man Should Be Part of Policy


India, Feb. 17 -- Other than the platitudes about the supporting role of men in women's issues, matters related to men play a secondary role in gender conferences. So it was a pleasant turn of events that the issue of fatherhood and its role in gender relations played a prominent role in the just-concluded Difficult Dialogues meet on gender equality in Goa. In societies such as ours, it is almost a given that women will spend much longer caring for the home and children than men. With more women coming into the workforce, the participation of men becomes important.

It is well known that the absence of men as equal participants in housework diminishes opportunities for women to go out to work. But there is a more subterranean reason why men should be involved in bringing up children. Many studies have shown that a younger generation of men want to be involved in the lives of their children. The State of the World's Fathers report shows that around 77% of men say they would work less if this meant they could have more time with their children.

Ninety-two countries offer paternity leave to new fathers. India is not one of them. However, Haryana, considered the bastion of patriarchy, does offer 15 days of paternity leave, something which many, including women's groups, dismissed as a paid opportunity for men to loiter about and drink. But this is unfair and it has real potential to transform gender relations altogether. I know that Sweden is a bit removed from India but it was found there that if fathers took paternity leave, the mother's income would go up in the coming years. The woman would not have to drop out of work and she would not be overlooked in seniority. Emotionally, too it is a disservice to men to imagine that they do not want to be emotionally connected with their children. According to Margaret O'Brien, professor in child and family policy at University College, London, the younger generation of fathers are keen to be involved in their children's upbringing.

In many ways, the boy child's role model is his father. And if the father is seen as sharing in the household work, including bringing up children, this has a lasting impact as the boy moves into adulthood. One thing is that it reduces the double burden on women who, in most societies, have to manage home and work. …

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