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Take action against 'misogynic, regressive' India Bank officials, say women's groups

By Our Representative 

Women’s groups have demanded immediate withdrawal of the “anti-women” decision by the Indian Bank, which requires women pregnant of 12 weeks’ standing or over should be declared as temporarily unfit until confinement is over, calling it misogynic and regressive.
In a statement, the All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), has said that the decision of the Indian Bank not to appoint selected women candidates who are six or more months pregnant is “anti-women”, similar to the one taken by the State Bank of India some months ago, but later withdraw “due to huge protests from various quarters.”
The Indian Bank in its latest guidelines for Physical Fitness has introduced a new condition that “a woman candidate, who as a result of tests, is found to be pregnant of 12 weeks’ standing or over, should be declared as temporarily unfit until confinement is over. The candidate should be re-examined for a fitness certificate six weeks after the date of labour, subject to the production of a medical certificate of fitness from a registered medical practitioner”.
The Tamil Nadu Grama Bank (TNGB) sponsored by Indian Bank has also issued similar guidelines prohibiting women with more than six months of pregnancy from joining its services and laid a condition that they would be allowed to join only after three months of delivery after medical examination.
AIDWA says, “As it is the work participation of women at present is lowest in the country since independence. Such instructions issued by bank managements will further adversely impact on job opportunities for women. The number of women employees in banks are dismally low at 25 percent. This circular also violates the provisions which the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.”
According to AIDWA, “There is provision related to compulsory crèche (daycare) facilities for every establishment across all sectors employing 50 or more employees. This includes the benefit that mothers are allowed to visit the crèche four times per day. Preventing women from joining the Bank due to pregnancy is a violation of their right to work.”
Signed by Malini Bhattacharya and Mariam Dhawale, President and General Secretary AIDWA statement asserts, “Earlier once the female candidates had cleared the written test and interview, they had to fill up a declaration to medical examiners under a subtitle ‘For Female Candidates Only' that asked for details of their gynecological history. This humiliating clause had been withdrawn after protests. Bringing back such regressive steps is unacceptable.
AIDWA further demands action against the executive who was responsible for issuance of such retrograde circular which is anti-constitutional. It is also demanded of the Union Government to ensure that no institution discriminates against women in recruitment.
The All-India Working Women’s Forum (AIWWF), associated with the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), has termed “regressive and misogynic” the decision of the Indian Bank, which designated pregnancy as ‘temporarily unfit, stating it is an “unconstitutional act”, calling for “stringent action.”
AIWWF asks Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to initiate immediate action against the officials responsible for the decision
Stating that the decision “smacks of the most abhorrent gender prejudice, to say the least”, AIWWF, in a letter signed by its convener Vahidha Nizam, asks Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to look up the new guidelines issued Indian Bank “and initiate immediate action against the officials responsible for incorporating section 1.3 (A) of the procedure for medical examination.”
According to AIWWF, the move is “not only the spirit of gender parity is violated, the content is blatantly vocal and expressive of its malicious sex prejudice,” adding, “Classifying pregnancy as ‘unfit’ is disgracing and dishonouring motherhood.”
It insists, “Pregnancy is a natural phenomenon and it is not only the fundamental right of the woman to give birth but also necessary for existence of mankind. Denying or postponing employment on the basis of pregnancy, therefore is in gross violation to all the legal, constitutional, social and moral commitments.”
AIWWF says, “Indian Constitution, in its preamble promises social and economic justice to all. Article 15 (3) reads, ‘Nothing in this article shall prevent the state from making any special provision for women and children.’ Article 42, one of the Directive Principles of the State Policy, though not enforceable by law, states, ‘The state shall make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief’.”
It adds, “It is in consonance with these provisions that the Maternity Benefit Act 1961 was enacted by the parliament. Article 14 of the constitution provides that the state shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal protection of the laws.”

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