Last year, when I visited Stockholm for the first-ever Gender Equality Forum organised by the Government of Sweden, I saw an interesting photo exhibition by Swedish photographer Johan Bavman. The 25 pictures were of men with their children, doing regular actions like bathing and feeding them, playing with them and one photo even showed a dad lying down with a baby in his arms. Whilst the pictures were quite regular, what caught my attention was the strong bond you could see emerge through the picture from father to child. It was powerful. It spoke volumes and it evoked feelings like vulnerability, compassion, empathy, trust and more.

I was so inspired by the exhibition that I enquired how could I bring one to my home city of Mumbai as I wanted others to feel the emotion too, especially Indian dads.

Picture credit: Johan Bavman.

India is quite different from Sweden, which has one of the world’s most generous parental insurance schemes, enabling parents to stay home with their children for up to 480 days, paid for by the state. Ninety of these days are reserved for each parent exclusively. Despite this, only a fraction of the country’s fathers choose to claim all statutory days of parental leave, and only 14 per cent choose to share them equally. The dads in this photo exhibit are among those who choose to use the leave.

Sweden has one of the world’s most generous parental insurance schemes, enabling parents to stay home with their children for up to 480 days, paid for by the state. Ninety of these days are reserved for each parent exclusively.

The photographer Johan Bavman says, “By showing the everyday lives of fathers on parental leave, through pictures and interviews, I’ve focused on men who’ve chosen to put bonding with their children and families before their jobs and careers. I’ve also sought to show the universally valid, loving aspect of parenthood, regardless of whether you’re a mother or father. With the aid of this project, I hope to inspire more men to begin reflecting on their roles as fathers and partners, which is an important step towards a more gender-balanced society. It’s good to see these stories going out into the world, where the Swedish perspective on gender equality is by no means self-evident.”

By showing the everyday lives of fathers on parental leave, through pictures and interviews, I’ve focused on men who’ve chosen to put bonding with their children and families before their jobs and careers. – Johan Bavman

The Swedish perspective is needed in India when it comes to fatherhood. Men contribute less than their fair share in family care, in part because fathers only get up to 15 days of paternity leave while women get six months. The Mckinsey report The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in India states that women in India do ten times more unpaid care work than their spouses. This has a direct co-relation to social attitudes that limit women’s potential and actual gender equality outcomes. It is directly seen in the atrocious sex ratio where across India we have 877 girl childbirths for every 1000 boy childbirths. In states like Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan the girl childbirth rate is as low as 806. Furthermore, these social attitudes also impact violence against women, as Indian news headlines document constantly.

he Mckinsey report The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in India states that women in India do ten times more unpaid care work than their spouses.

I am excited to share that I was successful through a collaboration with the Consulate General of Sweden in getting the Swedish Dads exhibition installed in India. Our exhibition is on display at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival and includes 10 pictures of Indian dads, including actor Shah Rukh Khan, with their children. These dads are shown taking their children to school, playing with their children and bathing their pets. Indian photographer Avinash Gowariker says, “I don’t recall my father doing any of these activities with me. I love my father and we share a deep bond. But when I took these pictures, there was a sense of longing for having missed out.”

He further explained that there is more expectation in young India where fathers like Shah Rukh bring their children on film sets, which was unthinkable earlier.

I don’t recall my father doing any of these activities with me. I love my father and we share a deep bond. But when I took these pictures, there was a sense of longing for having missed out. -Avinash Gowariker

Famed human rights lawyer Flavia Agnes endorsed the exhibition and said that she took on many horrific child sexual abuse cases where the father was a perpetrator of the violence. She explained that socio cultural norms stereotype of the father as the head of the family and the controller of those under him means he is very rarely seen as a nurturer. She believes that men’s increased involvement in family care would reduce the violence in the home, especially the child sexual abuse.

The Swedish Dads and Indian Dads is meant to be a conversation starter on moving from maternity and paternity leave to parental leave, the role of fathers in family care to strengthen the bonds between them and their children and create role models whilst freeing up time for their spouses to pursue their aspirations and economic empowerment.

The Swedish Dads and Indian Dads is meant to be a conversation starter on moving from maternity and paternity leave to parental leave.

We hope you will make time to visit this powerful exhibition at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) (formerly named the Prince of Wales Museum) from 2nd to 10th February 2019 during Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2019.

Feature Image credit:  Johan Bavman

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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