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Opinion and Analysis: Gender and Sexuality | Law and Justice | Social Movements

Venezuela’s New Labour Law: Promoting Mutual Parental Responsibility

His day begins at 6am. Getting up for work, washing, dressing and quickly eating the food his wife prepares for breakfast are part of his daily routine. He spends eight hours with his friends and colleagues in the bank where he works, before literally “running” to university, where he spends almost four hours more. At the end of the day he sets off for home again to see his wife and two children (the latter already asleep,) and to rest and prepare for the following day.

This story belongs to the life of Jesus Rangel, a young man of 26 years of age, who, like many Venezuelans, must “sacrifice” his family life in order to dedicate himself to work. He will also be one of the millions of workers benefiting from the new Labour Law (LOT) which contemplates, among other things, legally guaranteed job security for the mother as much as the father for two years after the birth of a child, the reduction of the working week by two hours, and the right for fathers [and mothers] to be absent from work if their child is ill.

For Alba Carosio, member of the Feminist Spider Network, an organisation which groups together 45 collectives on the national level, the labour rights gained are a tool for dissembling patriarchal society, which is dedicated to the exploitation of workers’ labour and discrimination against women. “Work cannot be against the family, nor vice versa,” she said.

In this sense, the definition of labour presented by the Feminist Spider and other organisations in a proposal to the National Assembly as part of the consultation process for the new LOT establishes that: “In a socialist society in construction, work should be a creative, conscious, participative, planned and liberatory process, free of exploitation, united in willpower, and founded in solidarity, cooperation and relations of equity and equality between men and women”.

The Importance of Sharing

“This is my son, I need to take him out, at the very least on the weekend,” says Carlos Baez, father of a two year old child, who makes sure to use Saturdays and Sundays to be with his little boy as his economic status requires him to keep his job.

Therefore, he says, in being the “head of the household” the greatest economic load falls on him even when his partner also works. In this sense for Baez, legally guaranteed job security and a reduction of the working week in the new LOT could contribute to putting and end to the idea that only mothers take care of the kids. “When you´re more relaxed, without the pressure that you could be fired, you can make more time to be with your loved ones,” he emphasised.

According to Carosio, even if the law does not defeat the patriarchal model by itself, it is a step in the right direction in the process of incorporating fathers into the raising of their children. “We hope that fathers use the free time that they’re now going to have (two extra hours per week) to be with their children,” she stated.

A Constitutional Principle

However, promoting equality and mutual responsibility in the raising of children is not only something considered within the new LOT. Although it’s not very well known or habitually practiced, this principle is established in the National Constitution. Article 76 states the following, that “the father and the mother have the shared and indispensable duty of raising, forming, educating, maintaining and attending to their children”.

The Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents also stipulates this duty in its article 25: “All children and adolescents, independently of what was their parents’ affiliation, have the right to know their parents and be cared for by them, save from when it is against their best interests”.

Venezuela: A Pioneer in Parental Rights

Advancing in favour of the protection of the parental rights of workers places Venezuela in the vanguard in relation to various countries in Latin America and the world.

In Spain for example, maternity leave is conceived of in the country’s labour legislation as “a cause of temporary incapacity”. In line with this legal text, female workers are granted 16 weeks after giving birth and fathers between two and four [translators note: the new Labour Law gives mothers in Venezuela the right to maternity leave of 6 weeks before and 20 weeks after giving birth].

The current Colombian labour code states that the worker who becomes a mother has the right to 12 weeks of rest from the moment of birth. If she desires, she can cede one week of this to her husband or partner.

In Peruvian labour regulations, it is stipulated that female workers will enjoy 12 weeks, meanwhile the father has four days. In Mexico, the mother has the right to 12 weeks of maternity leave, and the father to 10 days. The government of Chile grants its workers 18 weeks distributed before and after the birth.

Translated by Ewan Robertson for Venezuelanalysis.com