Finally, South Africa has made a significant stride along the road to equality between the sexes. From now on, fathers will be entitled to 10 days paid “paternity leave” when their child is born.
This legislation, which becomes part of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, recognises a number of realities in the dynamics of the modern family.
While women have been long entitled to maternity leave – a portion paid and a portion unpaid, if needed – fathers have been expected to continue with their normal working lives. In some cases, sadly, this has meant that men have not been burdened with a double load, but have been able to use work as an excuse to duck parental duties and responsibilities.
Now, fathers can be at home to share in the chores – but also to share in the joy of bringing new life into the world. Hopefully that will make some families closer and make some selfish men more appreciative of the tough work it is to be a mother and, in many cases, a homemaker.
In some small way, the new leave stipulations will, we hope, help to break down the gender stereotypes which define our society in so many negative ways.
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