The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 has recently been passed by the Parliament of India. While this Act is a progressive step for women, there is a need to question the theoretical foundations of the law, rather than merely its consequential ramifications. Through this paper, we attempt to critique the individual rights-justice model that is integral to conceptualising maternity laws and labour laws in India. We employ a critical feminist lens to argue that such a model reproduces the public-private dichotomy and devalues the work of care within the private sphere- suggesting that it is not “transformative” labour, but “merely reproductive”. We draw from the feminist philosophy of care to argue that child-rearing must be recognised by the State as a form of labour in itself. Further, we root these theoretical suggestions in the contemporary Indian context by providing certain tangible suggestions in terms of legislative and judicial changes that would further the responsibility-care approach to the issue of maternity in the Indian legal framework. Through this paper, we argue for broadening the scope of “labour” to include the work of care-thereby creating a space for care, relationships and connectedness within the law.

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