NEW DELHI: The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016 was on Thursday passed in the Rajya Sabha but not before the government was put in an uncomfortable position by the Opposition, which questioned the bill’s silence about providing the same benefit to women who opt for surrogacy. The demand for an assurance on the matter failed to yield any response from the government, leading to a brief commotion.
Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said India would jump to the third position in terms of the number of weeks (26) for maternity leave, behind Norway (44) and Canada (50), after the bill is passed in the Lok Sabha. Currently, the government provides 12 weeks of maternity leave for its employees.
Satish Chandra Mishra of the BSP sought clarity on whether women opting for surrogacy were included in the bill, to which Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi replied that “since the purpose of the bill is actually to bond with the child, she is not covered.” Other members such as Derek O’Brien, Anand Sharma and Tapan Sen demanded that women opting for surrogacy be given equal benefits.