Why aren’t Pakistani men given paternity leave?

Published: December 6, 2015

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg with daughter Max. PHOTO: AP

“We are pregnant.”  

That is such a wonderful way of announcing the happy news that a couple is expecting a baby. While it is by natural default that the woman is destined to bear the bigger physical brunt by carrying the child to term and going through the delivery ordeal, there is no dearth of good daddies who take pride and ownership in the role.

The more evolved men of today take the paternal instinct very seriously. They are involved in active parenting. And so many of them – like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – want to spend some uninterrupted time with their new-born. The purpose is multi-fold: help the mother, bond with the baby in what is perhaps the most inexplicably beautiful time of a parent’s life, and play your part in arguably the most important job life has given you. Yet, not every daddy-to-be owns Facebook, or works in companies that show such empathy.

Facebook employees are lucky; soon after Zuckerberg said he would take two months of paternity leave, the social media company announced that it is extending its parental leave policy to full-time employees outside the US.

Now that Zuckerberg’s daughter, Max, has arrived, he has given her a beautiful welcome by committing 99 per cent of the Facebook shares to charity. He even wrote a letter to his new-born baby girl where he vows to change the world by eliminating inequality and giving every child a chance at education.

While critics may call it “philanthrocapitalism” and worry about the shares currently valued at $45 billion, it is a heart-warming welcome nonetheless. But for the daughter, the two months daddy is taking off from work may go a longer way.

Looking at international labour laws, maternity leave is finally and thankfully given due importance. But paternity leave is a classic case of reverse discrimination, where we see the gender gap tilting in favour of the woman. While due to physical reasons, maternity leave is unavoidable, the paternity leave debate needs to be fuelled yet again. Zuckerberg may have given the subject the much needed impetus.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines the leave as,

“A leave period – paid or unpaid – reserved for fathers in relation to childbirth or leave that can be used exclusively by fathers as paternity leave. It does not include parental leave provisions that can be used by the father or mother or parts of maternity leave entitlements that the mother can transfer to the father. It includes ‘special leave’ provisions in addition to annual leave that may be used by fathers at the time of birth, but which are not strictly ‘paternity leave’.”

An ILO study released last year shows that in addition to maternity leave legislation, many countries also have measures to support working fathers. Of 167 countries studied, 78 stipulate a statutory right to paternity leave, mostly paid. Yet, leave provisions for fathers vary country and culture wise.

On an ILO map showing paternity leave allowed by law in each country, when one swipes the cursor over Pakistan, the words “0 leaves” pop up. The government of Punjab, earlier in this decade, notified male employees that they could avail a paternity leave up to seven days for a total of two times in their entire service. Many corporate houses all over Pakistan allow leave on the same pretext.

The days of paternity leave are still too little and the subject is not discussed enough, yet there is a definitely encouraging upswing trend of more involved fatherhood. More and more fathers wholeheartedly and lovingly take part in changing diapers, preparing the baby’s feeds and walking around with the baby on their shoulder till he/she has burped. Parenting is a joy shared by two, from babyhood to your child’s adulthood. It is time that fathers get some time off legitimately when this journey starts for them.

Pakistan’s legislators and policy makers, are you listening?

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • abc

    They do, mam – most of the organisations I worked for used to have the policy for the paternity leave.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Hey…hey…hey….whats this paternity, fiternity leave you are talking about. We are Pakistani men….we make babies, pass wind from both ends and do other such manly stuff….changing diapers would seriously damage our manhood. So…….watch it.Recommend

  • DNA

    men in pakistan will use the paternity leave only to sleep more, watch cricket and add to the chores of already burdened new mom so they are better off away at office. peace.

  • Fahimuddin

    Government official takes 2 months of leave on dead of Nani, saas, Daadi multiple times each in their period of job. So no worries they can align it with the birth of childRecommend

  • zain

    Pakistan is rapidly turning into a society of Misandrists (prejudice/hate against men)Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Farahnaz, nice heartfelt blog as usual, but let’s start with Pakistani women. Unfortunately, it isn’t a common practice for them, either.Recommend

  • Ravi Blr

    With upto four wives, and multiple children from each wife, you,will never see any of these guys in the office if you gave them paternal leave!Recommend

  • mjkhan

    First, Pakistani men should understand the meaning of paternity leave; helping the mother in taking care of the newborn, day and night. Like a relay race… when mother gets tired, the father takes over and vice versa. If the Pakistani father finds it below himself to do daddy duties, then he doesn’t deserve a paternity leave. He’ll just be a nuisance around the house. In that case, he’s better off in the office.Recommend

  • waqar

    “He’ll just be a nuisance around the house. In that case, he’s better off in the office.”

    Hahahahahahahaah well written, ok we should not go for paternity leave thn. even i feel more relaxed @ office now a days with a new born and a 2 year running all around the placesRecommend

  • Farahnaz Zahidi

    Thanks Noman :) Actually Pakistan’s maternity laws have seen good improvement. It’s 90 days for women, more than what even many developed countries allow. Also both should not be mutually exclusive. We can and should push for both. Appreciate the feedback.Recommend

  • abhi

    May be because Pakistani men are not too much in to fatherhood. How many fathers in Pakistan change the diapers of their babies?Recommend

  • ovais

    the irony we arent given leaves let alone parental leaves .Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    You are right. We should push for both. And yes, compared to the United States our maternity laws are great. From my experience, and it could be isolated, not all employers are following through. For example, someone in my family recently had to leave her job after becoming pregnant. No maternity leave was offered. Of course, this could be an isolated case…Recommend

  • Parvez

    I don’t know of others…but I did change diapers when diapers were made of soft cotton cloth in those days ( disposable ones were not yet in the market ) and I helped iron them too, because that kept them germ free…..both my children NEVER got nappy rash…….but to be fair 80% of the work was done by my better half.Recommend

  • Saher

    Telenor gives a 6 months paid maternity leave! They have set a very good example for the whole industry to folllow!Recommend

  • Farahnaz Zahidi

    In such a case, honestly, the companies need to be taken to task legally. They can be sued. One step at a time I guess. baby steps :)Recommend

  • Umar Nazar

    FYI, the concept of paternal and maternity leave is fadding away in the west. In England, where I live it is now called ‘Parental leave’ and it is shared by both the father and the mother.Recommend

  • genesys

    Legally with four wives and multiple children form each wife when will the father get to work and how can any one pay for long term absentee employee.So the economical way is to deny paternity leave which is sensible.Recommend

  • Sayigh Masumi

    Power 99 FM gives 3 day paid PATERNITY leave :-)Recommend