3 months paternity leave: but mothers and fathers are not equal
The "Family Act" measure announced by the Minister for Equal Opportunities Bonetti at the Women's Forum G20 Italy. But if greater male participation is desirable, the equal logic that inspires sharing moves once again in the direction of neutrality, denying female difference and promoting ineffective actions.

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During the opening in Milan of the “Women's Forum G20 Italy” the Minister for Equal Opportunities Elena Bonetti announced the plan to gradually extend compulsory paternity leave from the current 10 days to 3 months, as part of the "Family Act". 

The extension – and in some cases the equalization – of fathers' and mothers' leave presents itself as one progressive policy aimed at achieving greater “gender equality” in the family and at work, as well as encouraging a sharing of care burdens which today weigh on women disproportionately and often without formal or material recognition.

In reference to the extension of the period of compulsory leave for fathers after the birth of a daughter, Bonetti declares theobjective of "equalizing male and female responsibility". In a historical moment in which the concept of "rights" is extended to name the most varied individual desires, the emphasis placed on the concept of responsibility. Even in the field of parenting, a discussion on rights has found space which mainly represents the desires of adults, rarely centered on girls. For example, the use of rented uteruses and medically assisted fertilization is claimed as a "right" that the State should guarantee, overlooking the business reasons and the implications in terms of morality and physical and psychological health for women and girls. .

Returning to the measure being discussed, the need for is often mentioned in the lines of the current Government and in the PNRR increase female employment to achieve “gender equality”. In the Seventies, feminism criticized the concept of "emancipation" and "equality" which ended up proposing homologation to the male model, denying the free expression of female difference. A lesson that today seems forgotten, even if it would offer useful ideas to understand why many "well-intentioned" equal policies are not producing the desired change, but they merely encourage women to “to be like men”, adhering to a model that is still firmly male and patriarchal.

According to supporters, the increase in compulsory leave time for fathers would serve to reduce the costs for companies relating to hiring a woman (new mother and/or potential new mother) compared to hiring a man (new father and/or or potential new father). The effectiveness of this measure should be evaluated ex-post: family care and responsibilities do not end after the first three months of a daughter and they don't just concern women who have daughters. A debate would be appropriate to consider the reasons why voluntary leaves are not used by fathers today and therefore whether the obligatory nature of this measure could contribute to an "educational" purpose or instead to change the balance of power that generates the majority of injustices suffered by women in every part of the world.

If it is true that "it takes a village to raise a child" this measure could perhaps also go in the direction of reducing the physical and moral loneliness experienced by women who become mothers in the West. In any case, equalizing even just verbally the father and mother in the first months of life remains an objective resulting from a cultural approach aimed at neutrality, all to be discussed and put to the test.

To generate change, however, the difference must be fully recognized, explore it to concretely reform the model taking into account the free expression of female difference, difference that establishes the human and asks to be able to shape the world, domestic and public.

If they do not recognize the difference, equality policies risk becoming "policies of indifference", unjust and inscribed only in the male symbolic order. 

Veronica Tamborini


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