Relooking the Paternity Leave Issue: Focus Virat Kohli Case


Relooking the Paternity Leave Issue: Focus Virat Kohli Case

Prakreetish Sarma | November 29, 2020 09:47 hrs

Virushka (Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma) are soon going to have their first child. The expected delivery date is scheduled during the highly anticipated test series between India and Australia.  

The captain’s leave for paternity was allowed by the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI). While the couple has been receiving blessings and wishes worldwide, there is a certain section who has been criticizing the said leave. Notable people from the cricketing fraternity such as VVS Laxman, Sunil Gavaskar have been vocal about the same; the latter had taken a dig by highlighting the affordability factor (pricey ticket). Even Kapil Dev (World Cup-winning captain) had shared similar views.

This very issue has created a buzz recently, as a lot of people are worried about the indefinite absence of Kohli from the Test team. Moreover, Rohit Sharma’s presence is still mired by a cloud of uncertainty, as he has not cleared the requisite fitness test. During the previous outing the men in blue had successfully defeated the baggy caps. However, it was a team that played without the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner who were banned because of ball tempering.

Amidst the entire row, there is one important angle which nobody has shown heed into. It is the need to have a fixed law or rule related to paternity leave, just like its counterpart in the form of a Maternity Benefit Act 1961 for a woman, which explicitly lays down the various provisions related to maternity such as leave, allowances, crèche facilities (allowed four times a day apart from rest time), rest, etc in a codified manner. So this law gives a legitimate sanction and upholds the right of a mother to a large extent. 

However, there is no law or any rule of such nature regarding the father. This is exactly where things go haywire; there is no denying the fact that the mother is considered to be the natural guardian of the child which is even backed by law. However, a father’s presence is equally important. As Sunil Gavaskar had said while passing his remark on Virat’s paternity leave issue, he had gone on to say that he could not see his son (Rohan Gavaskar, a former Indian cricket team player) for days.

This very statement speaks for itself; there are men working in different walks of life. They might be privileged (like Virat) or not but they too have faced this problem at some point of their life. Everyone is not lucky to have caring in-laws or reliable domestic help. This issue is mostly seen with working-class metro couples who are mostly working in private set ups such as companies, firms etc. This very issue was very well depicted in a movie named ‘Ribbon’ starring Kalki Koechlin and Sumit Vyas (permanent roommates fame) which was a story of a couple whose parents stayed outside Mumbai and they had a baby and were all on their own. The husband had to leave the house for good, due to occupational commitments. The movie had also showered light upon unreliable domestic helps as well. The struggle of the couple and especially the mother while raising the child was beautifully projected.

With the concept of nuclear families on the rise, couples find it very difficult to raise their child and this becomes one of the primary reasons for delayed child birth or no child at all in today’s rapid world. As per psychologists such as Sigmund Freud (father of psychology), the father is no more than an occasional mother substitute. He substantiated his claim in his attachment theory where he had opined that although the child becomes more attached to the mother because of feeding, an infant’s exposure to various adults determines the child’s responsiveness. Although psychologists such as Lamb have said that the infant is more close to the mother as she spends more time. However, Parson has showered light upon the role of both as he has said that the father’s role is more task-oriented and the mother’s is a more expressive one. Researcher Shirley S. Ricks had gone on to conduct empirical research where she concluded that the father-infant interactions provided an extra stimulation for the child. She was also of the opinion that a father’s role is more physically arousing such as through vigorous play when compared to the mother. 

The whole issue related to paternity leave is one over which the authorities have slept over. This has now resulted in confusion and mostly the discretion of the authorities. Now a person employed in the armed forces is seldom seen taking such leaves especially during war escalation or any other tension situation. But again it is natural for a father to be with his new born. The emotions or attachment of a father cannot be gauged on the fact of not carrying the baby. The critics in Virat’s case are of the view that he was the same person who had continued playing a match despite his father’s demise and had in fact come back the very next day to play in that match. Virat has been facing backlashes on these very grounds and his critics have pointed out that the captain has had a change of heart, his priorities have changed etc. The list of criticism is endless and it boiled even further after his teammate Md. Siraj, having recently lost his father, had opted to remain with the team and practice for the Australian summer.

It is understandable that we are a cricket crazy nation, we love the gentleman’s game but that does not give anyone a license to pass defaming comments against the couple. The social media hate has been one of the biggest lows in the entire episode. It is understandable that Kohli’s presence is important (national duty) as has been reiterated by former cricketers such as Ricky Ponting and Ian Botham. But there are solid batsmen such as the likes of Pujara, Rahane who are competent enough to fill his shoes for the time being. Even cricketers like Chris Harris of New Zealand have had such experiences and he had got the news about his twin children and was also left traumatized by one of his child’s hemiplegia which caused problems in movement and coordination. Even cricketers like Dhoni and Ganguly had refused to leave national duty in spite of the news of their newborn.

This episode should rather be treated like an eye-opener and the authorities should look at enacting some rules for paternity leave. This is pertinent as it is often witnessed that denial of the same ends up in strained relations also. A lot of problems can be solved with this move as right now people like Kohli, who are in power and can easily avail such leaves. But everyone does not share the same faith. Hence some form of a structure should come soon and the law framers should sit over it.      

(The author is currently practicing as an Advocate in Gauhati High Court. The views expressed in the article are his own.)

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