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Is paternity leave the solution to domestic violence and sexual exploitation of girls?
Research suggests that fathers who take an active parenting role are key to curtailing violence and sexual exploitation of women and girls. And dads need to be involved with their daughters at the earliest stages, even before birth - photo by Lois M. Collins
Brazilian research has found that fathers who play an active role in parenting could make a big difference in reducing domestic violence and sexual exploitation of women and girls, among other things, in society.

"Fathers who are involved in caring for and raising their children from an early age are less likely to pay for sex with a teenage girl and act violently toward their children and partners," Marcos Nascimento, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, told the Thomas Reuters Foundation.

It starts at the earliest stages, including dads taking part in prenatal classes and attending births something that doesn't usually happen in many parts of the world, he noted. He said men who are active in raising their kids also "show a strong revulsion for other men who sexually exploit children and could be strong advocates on the issue."

But few policies around the world promote and support men's roles as fathers, including paternity leave.

The International Labor Organisation says 78 of 167 countries it surveyed have laws granting paternity leave. Of those that do, "most countries offer just between one and six days in paternity leave, some offer none and take-up rates among men are low, especially where leave is unpaid," the foundation's Anastasia Moloney wrote. She noted the Mencare international fatherhood promotion suggests at least two weeks of paid paternity leave, calling it an "important means of promoting the well-being of children and gender equality in the home, the workplace and society as a whole."

Fathers have long been seen as important to efforts to stop domestic violence and exploitation. In the United States, for example, The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) emphasizes that "even though domestic violence is a serious problem, most men are not abusive to their families, and fatherhood programs can help all men speak out against violence." It also offers resources to help those who are experiencing violence.

The Economist (paywall) lists numerous other benefits to paternity leave for dads, including providing more child care. "According to a study of four rich countries America, Australia, Britain and Denmark fathers who had taken paternity leave were more likely to feed, dress, bathe and play with their child long after the period of leave had ended. Danish men were the most diligent. Seventy-seven percent of them play with their children. And in Britain, dads who took time off at birth were almost a third more likely to read books with their toddlers than those who hadnt."

That involvement by dads with their children helps kids, improving how well children do at secondary school, especially daughters, the article said.

Dad's impact may depend on the choice he makes. According to the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse, "A father can be a tremendously positive force in his childrens lives when he sets appropriate limits, is emotionally present for his children, finds time for play, and respectfully negotiates the challenges of parenting with his coparent," the center stated. "But when he chooses to be intimidating or assaultive, undermines his coparents authority in the home, limits the family's access to resources and support, or treats family members as sexual objects and property, his involvement can becomes traumatic and terrifying."