Women-Focused Bills & Laws: The case for Gender Balance or Bias?
Lok Sabha member from Arunachal Pradesh, Ninong Ering, tabled the Menstruation Benefit Bill, 2017 earlier this month. The bill provides women working as employees in any public or private organization, two days of paid menstrual leave every month. It also seeks to provide better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation.
To understand the need for such a bill, ProEves, a leading childcare and maternity solutions, the firm did a survey of 10,000 women on their online community and the survey results were no surprise. Almost 90% of the surveyed women found the bill to not be relevant.
Nidhi Chandana, a working professional, and mother mentioned in the survey poll that the bill is creating barriers for women. On one hand, we want to normalize periods and then we go ahead and say - no periods are a setback and disable us in some way to grant us leave.
Malika Dhondge, a working mother, commented that this is an issue for all women, so why are specific bills being made for the working women – what about the girls who go to school, colleges or the ladies working at home?
In the last few years, the Government has come up with a slew of Gender-focused bills (POSH, Maternity Benefit Act 2017) to enable women participation in the workforce. While India Inc. has dominantly been positive about Women focused bills, in our recent most sentiment survey across 100+ companies we saw more companies being neutral to such bills which could result in a low impact implementation of gender-specific policies with respect to these bills.
It’s important to have Laws that support women and address the reason they exit the workforce. Childcare, parenting support, and flexible working are topmost enablers to increase women participation in the workforce and the revised Maternity Benefit Act addresses them adequately.
Now, the Government really needs to support and enable companies to implement the two existing high impact existing bills (POSH and Maternity Benefit Act 2017). There is a need for the Government to work with the Industries to see how companies can work towards Gender Diversity by complying with the law; and if the Government this budget season could consider some relevant subsidies for such companies that would ease out the initial implementation hiccups that most companies face.