'Retrograde': AIDWA Condemns Indian Bank’s Decision Not to Appoint Pregnant Women

The bank said any woman who is selected for appointment but is found to be pregnant of 12 weeks’ standing or over, should be declared "temporarily unfit".

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New Delhi: The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) on June 15, Wednesday strongly condemned Indian Bank’s “anti-women” decision to not appoint selected women candidates who are more than 12 weeks pregnant.

In its latest guidelines for physical fitness, Indian Bank has introduced a new condition, which says 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. This retrograde clause is highly discriminatory to women,” the AIDWA said in its statement.

A similar decision was taken by the State Bank of India – the largest bank in the country – in December last year. Following widespread outrage over the decision, SBI decided to “keep in abeyance” a circular that barred women candidates who are over three months pregnant from taking up jobs in the bank.

The proposed amendment, as reported by The Hindu, said: “In case of pregnancy, which is less than 3 months, the candidate will be considered as fit. However, if pregnancy is of more than 3 months, she will be considered temporarily unfit and she may be allowed to join within 4 months after delivery of Child.”

The Bank Workers’ Unity had condemned SBI’s decision, saying that “this is nothing but gross gender discrimination.” There was a huge protest from AIDWA, CITU, BEFI, AIBEA and members of parliament from CPM and CPI and other democratic forces. The Delhi Commission for women had also issued a suo motu notice to the SBI chairman in this regard.

Also read: Are Workplaces Actually Following the Maternity Leave Policy?

Such “anti-women” measures by banks come against the backdrop of several reports showing the falling labour force participation of women in India.

In March, World Bank released estimates that showed that India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world with less than a third of women, defined as 15 years or older, working or actively looking for a job. One of the reasons being a lack of flexibility and social security at workplaces.

As per the report, the female labour participation rate in India declined from over 26% in 2005 to 19% in 2020 – far lesser than 30.5% in Bangladesh and 33.7% in Sri Lanka.

AIDWA said with the work participation of women at present is the 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%.”

The circular also violates provisions of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, which requires the establishment of compulsory crèche (daycare) facilities across all sectors employing 50 or more people.

“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,” the AIDWA said.

According to the statement, earlier, there was a clause where women candidates had to fill up a declaration to medical examiners, asking for details of their gynaecological history. This form had to be submitted after clearing the written test and interview.

Although this clause has now been withdrawn, similar regressive and humiliating measures are now being introduced by organisations, the statement said.

“Bringing back such regressive steps is unacceptable. AIDWA demands the immediate withdrawal of this anti-women decision by the Indian Bank management,” the AIDWA said.