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Miscarriage Leave: Bereavement and the Indian Context

The New Zealand PM who permitted miscarriage leave bill
The New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern

In a new step towards gender equality, New Zealand Parliament passed a bill. It will offer three days leave to the employees after a miscarriage or stillbirth. With the passing of this bill, it has become the second nation to give this leave, after India. New Zealand has also become the first country to give a leave to both the male and the female- taking steps towards gender equality!

What is the need of a bereavement leave?

Usually expecting mothers get Maternity leave to take care of themselves and their kid because pregnancy does demand that. But, why is there a need of a different leave if the delivery is unsuccessful or their is a miscarriage? Well, the reasons are simple and many! First, miscarriage too comes with physical and physiological complications in the mother’s body! Profuse bleeding, uterine cramps, are some such conditions!

Also, the physical pain is nothing compared to the mental and psychological trauma that comes along with it. Next, the question that arises in the mind is- Why would the men need a leave, when all of the pain is endured by the women! Well, agony doesn’t see gender! A father-to-be is as attached to the child as the mother! Also, he needs to take care of his partner who might be suffering the physical pain as well.

India- the first country that gave a bereavement leave

 Our country India has been one of the countries that have a legal mandate for more than half a century. As per the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, a lot of clauses have been defined. It also states that- A woman is entitled to a paid leave for six weeks immediately following the day of her miscarriage. However, a report of the miscarriage needs to be submitted. Voluntary termination of pregnancy(abortion) is excluded.

Many other countries provide miscarriage leave only if stillbirth occurs after at least 20 weeks of pregnancy! But, in India there is no predefined period after which this leave can be availed. The Maternity Benefit Act describes miscarriage as expulsion of the contents of a pregnant uterus, prior to or during the 26 weeks of the pregnancy.

How much of the benefit actually exists for the workers in India?

Well, like any other act or law, this act too has been for name sake only. While people in general are less aware about it, the private companies do not abide by the act too. The situation is far worse for the labor groups. The working class either does not get such leave or at times may receive a one week leave but with reduced pay! Despite the fact that the natality rate and the rate of stillbirths is quite high, the conditions and benefits are overlooked in our country! However, India is way ahead of other nations legally. Making the public aware of their rights is important! Also, implementing the act at ground level is all that needs to be done!

AuthorApexa Rai


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Apexa

This is Apexa Rai! Student- B.A. Honors(Journalism) Intern at Akashbaani Loves to write! An optimistic Wildflower!

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