India's State Bank Forced to Withdraw 'Discriminatory' Rules on Pregnant Women After Outrage

© BalasangerState Bank of India Jaffna Branch in Sri Lanka
State Bank of India Jaffna Branch in Sri Lanka - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.01.2022
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The World Bank said in 2019 that Indian women’s participation in the workforce had declined to 20.9 percent. The Global Gender Gap Index, compiled by the World Economic Forum, ranked India as 140 among 156 countries in 2021, a drop of 28 places. The index is based on political and economic participation of women in a given country.
India’s largest lender, the State Bank of India (SBI), which is backed by the federal government, on Saturday withdrew its recently revised “recruitment and promotion guidelines” that stated women more than three months into pregnancy would be considered as “temporarily unfit” to join office.

“In view of the public sentiments, the SBI has decided to keep the revised instructions regarding recruitment of pregnant women in abeyance and continue with the existing instructions in the matter”, the bank said in a press release.

The current guidelines allow appointment and workforce participation of women who are less than six months into their pregnancy, given that they could furnish a fitness certificate from a gynecologist.
The rescinded recruitment rules, reportedly published on 31 December, stated that women more than three months into pregnancy would only be allowed to join work four months after having delivered a child.
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The recruitment norms triggered widespread outrage in the country, with many prominent people saying that they were “illegal” and “discriminatory” in nature.

“This is a very serious matter”, Swati Maliwal, chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), said in a letter to the SBI, as she asked the bank to withdraw the rules.

She pointed out that the rules “discriminated on the basis of sex, which is against the fundamental rights provided under the Constitution of India”.
Priyanka Chaturvedi, a federal member of parliament (MP) from the opposition party Shiv Sena, expressed concern that the guideline "debilitates the progress made to empower the women of our country”.
In a letter to federal Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Chaturvedi also underlined that the rules would do no good to help the cause of declining women participation in India's labour force.
Similarly, Su Venkatesan, an MP from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), pointed out in a letter to the SBI that the withdrawn rules were against the relevant provisions of the Indian Constitution, under which there can be no “discrimination” based on gender when it came to appointments in government positions.

“It is nothing but the reflection of patriarchal mindset of the SBI management and not consonant with the ideas of gender justice and hard won rights of the struggles of social reform movements and women organisations”, the MP stated.

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