When State Policy Refracts the Mother
This chapter explores how the Indian State’s parental leave provisions can get deployed to naturalize the maternal, gate-keep the ‘ideal’ patriarchal family and, thereby, institutionalize the gendered terrain of citizenship. Specifically, it focuses on two leave provisions for the female government employees: (a) the Maternity Leave, an apparent entitlement of the birth-giver and (b) the Child Care Leave (CCL), meant for child-care responsibilities. Via field interviews, government files accessed through a Right to Information petition and analysis of court cases, the chapter examines the two provisions—the maternity leave and the CCL—through the lens of non-normative claimants: mothers who ‘commission’ children through commercial surrogacy and whose request for Maternity Leave is either rejected or delayed and a range of single fathers who are denied the Child Care Leave. Despite their ‘genetic’ links to their children and the legal legitimacy such kinship carries, what makes the State deny these parents the performance of their care-giving role? While the State clearly conjoins the care-giving role with the female body, thus denying CCL to its male employees, Assisted Reproductive Technologies(ARTs) complicate the State’s simplistic naturalization by separating the ‘genetic’ and ‘gestational’ aspect of mothering and thus transforming what parental relatedness denotes. The chapter shares and deconstructs official responses, definitions and legal texts to point to the State’s discursive and essentialized construction of the body that gives birth, of parenthood and the family. While the State seems to re-inscribe biological motherhood, compromise women’s public roles and discourage men’s care-giving, the accounts of these male and female ‘mothers’ carry the potential to expose the performativity of care, de-naturalize the identity of the caregiver as well as open private-public roles to contestations and re-signification.
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