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RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- THE THIRD CHILD NORMS


RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- THE THIRD CHILD NORMS


Introduction:

            The Uttarakhand High Court passed an order denying maternity leave to women in government jobs in case they have a third child. In an order dated September 17, Chief Justice Ramesh Rangnathan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma of the Uttarakhand High Court quashed an earlier order by a single bench. The double bench of the High Court overruled the single bench order accepting the contention of the state government, which had challenged the single bench order issued by Justice Rajeev Sharma in July 2018. The single bench order had been delivered on a PIL filed by Haldwani-based nurse Urmila Masih challenging a government rule not to provide maternity leave to women in case of a third child. Masih had said that the government’s rule to not provide maternity benefits in case of a third child violates Article 42 of the Constitution of India and Section 27 of the Maternity Benefit Act. The government challenged the order of the single bench by filing a special appeal and contending that the petitioner could not claim benefits of the maternity act as she already had two children and could not be granted maternity leave for her third child in consonance with the “second provision of the fundamental rule 153”.

 

Maternity Benefit Act

Need

  • With the advent of modern age, as the number of women employees is growing, the maternity leave and other maternity benefits are becoming increasingly common. 
  • But there was no beneficial piece of legislation in the horizon which is intended to achieve the object of doing social justice to women workers employed in factories, mines and plantation.

Objective:

Providing maternity leave and benefit to women employee to protect the dignity of motherhood by providing for the full and healthy maintenance of women and her child.

Applicability of Maternity Benefit Act, 1961

The Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child-birth and to provide for maternity benefit and certain other benefits.

  • It applies to every establishment being a factory, mine or plantation including any such establishment belonging to Government and to every establishment wherein persons are employed for the exhibition of equestrian, acrobatic and other performances.
  • It will also apply to every shop or establishment within the meaning of any law for the time being in force in relation to shops and establishments in a State, in which ten or more persons are employed on any day of the preceding twelve months.

Key Amendment to the Act

The provisions of The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 is effective from April 01, 2017.

The amendments seek to improve infant mortality rate (34 per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality rate (167 per 100,000 live births.

  • Increased Paid Maternity Leave:
    • The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has increased the duration of paid maternity leave available for women employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks. 
    • Under the Act, this benefit could be availed by women for a period extending up to 8 weeks before the expected delivery date and remaining 18 weeks can be availed post childbirth.
    • For women who are expecting after having 2 children, the duration of paid maternity leave shall be 12 weeks.
  • Maternity leave for adoptive and commissioning mothers
    • Every woman who adopts a child shall be entitled to 12 weeks of maternity leave, from the date of adoption
  • Work from Home option:
    • This may be exercised after the expiry of the 26 weeks’ leave period.
    • Depending upon the nature of work, women employees may be able to avail this benefit on terms that are mutually agreed with the employer.
  • Crèche facility
    • The Act makes crèche facility mandatory for every establishment employing 50 or more employees.
    • Women employees would be permitted to visit the crèche 4 times during the day.

The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act makes it mandatory for employers to educate women about the maternity benefits available to them at the time of their appointment.

 

Article 42: Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief

The State shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.

 

Arguments against the verdict:

  • Every Indian citizen has got certain fundamental rights and reproduction is the right that every woman of this country has.
  • To have child or not is her prerogative.
  • Population control is needed but denying any maternity benefits to a woman, given the ground that it is her third child affects her fundamental right to live a life with dignity and enjoy all the benefits of fundamental rights which every Indian citizen has.
  • It is not the 3rd child’s fault so denying it protection and benefits goes against.
  • Even maternity benefit act does not say that you should have only certain number of children.
  • Child needs nutrition during that phase and if not given, that child will be the liability on the country.
  • Government might have to spend more on that child rather than saving.
  • Health being state subject, the enforcement is unequal.
  • Women of a particular state should not be deprived from their fundamental rights.
  • Maternity Benefit has been brought with much discussion.
  • This verdict of Uttarakhand High Court is against the very spirit, principles and the concept of maternity benefit.
  • Increase in abortions and female infanticide.

 

Arguments for the verdict:

  • Helps to ease the overpopulation problems.
  • It is seen as practical by some families.
  • Lowers poverty rates.
  • To endorse third child maternity benefit policy will counter its own family planning measures.
  • We struggling to keep the TFR so it is a right step.
  • By promoting a maternity leave it might actually endorse the third child which may go against.

 

Way Forward:

  • Education awareness.
  • Women empowerment
  • Incentivizing birth control
  • Changing mindset.
  • Contraceptive tools available to both women and men.
  • Financial benefits for having fewer childrens.
  • Regulation rather than banning.
  • Innovative ideas for family planning
  • We need to focus on women that unemployed and rural sector.

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