The just concluded Father's Day threw up a huge question ~ the contribution of fathers in one's life and their role in rearing kids. Amid a deluge of messages on social media, one missed out on a very pertinent issue ~ paternity leave.

Earlier this year, it was heartwarming news for working women as the Rajya Sabha amended the Maternity Benefit Act (1961) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, to extend maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks in the organised sector.

The Amendment Act also allows 12 weeks of leave to mothers adopting or commissioning a child through surrogacy and encourages employers to allow new mothers to work from home.

The decision was welcome by all, especially given the ordeal a woman goes through in giving birth to a child. It is also a stressful time for the new mother as she physically and mentally gears up to care for the newborn. This is the period when she requires all the support ~ physically and emotionally.

While traditionally, an extended family would meet this need, in today's world of nuclear families this becomes impossible unless the father chips in. Soon after the Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill was passed in March the question of paternity leave was raised.

Government officials avoided the question, giving various explanations. New fathers As per the Civil Service Law (1991) men holding a government job can avail 15 days of paid leave following birth of a child. This can be availed with any merged leaves. But there is no legislation mandating compulsory leave for new fathers in the private sector.

Now the question is why this disparity between men and women? Is rearing a newborn the responsibility of only the mother, which the absence of paternity leave implies? If there is no leave granted for the father, ultimately the mother will have to take care of their child.

However, if one goes into the technicality of the issue, in the first few months of child birth it is necessary for mothers to be around. At the same time, psychologists also suggest that it is good for a new mother if her husband is around post-pregnancy. "Post pregnancy period is the most crucial period for woman," said a gynaecologist.

"This is the time when she goes through a lot of changes, physically and mentally. Therefore, if her husband is around, it is like a morale booster."

"These days, parenting has become a shared responsibility for the father and the mother, both," said a psychologist. "And the presence of the father in this period also makes him sensitive towards the special needs of the child." Not only post-pregnancy, many women argued that men should be around before before due date also.

The reason being the whole process is quite painful and the presence of their husband saround them gives them moral support. "You understand how painful the whole process is.

The society has unnecessarily kept fathers out of all this for a long time," said Rekha, a mother of two and working in a multi-national company. Gender bias The Central Civil Services (Leave) Rule 551 (A) for paternity leave is limited to government firms only, private organisations in India are not bound by law to provide paternity leave to its employees.

This discrimination is creating a lot of problems, especially for women. They also have to face a bias when it comes to hiring female employees. A study conducted by the National Commission of Women reveals that absence of paternity leave gives more room for the discrimination. Due to an entitled maternity leave, many corporates choose to hire men to avoid granting maternity leave.

The data thrown up by the study says while the workforce is increasing year-onyear, the number of women in that pool is decreasing. In 2016, it was revealed that participation of women fell by 10 per cent in the last decade ~ the largest drop anywhere in the world. Therefore, many careeroriented couples are postponing having a baby simply because this would impact their career.

In several countries paternity leaves are given very generously. For instance, Finland gives eight weeks paid leave for fathers and Norway up to 10 weeks. The reason being, they want to share the parenting responsibility. Several private firms like Microsoft have also granted 2-6 weeks and Cummins gives 30 days.