Lawyers force KIU to cancel mandatory pregnancy tests

A police officer walks past Kampala International University. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The learners were supposed to pay Shs5,000 for the tests to the hospital account.

Kampala International University yesterday yielded to pressure from the female lawyers and rescinded the planned mandatory pregnancy tests for nurses and midwives.

The university had on November 8 ordered all female nurses and midwives to get a pregnancy test and vowed to block them from sitting for the Uganda Nurses and Midwifery Examinations, something that sparked mixed reactions in the public.

The learners were supposed to pay a charge of Shs5,000 for the tests to the hospital account. This directive was strongly protested by the female lawyers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (Fida), who stressed that the directive was discriminatory in nature.

The Fida executive director, Ms Lillian Byarugaba Adriko, warned the university that by enforcing this directive, it would amount to an infringement on the students’  rights to education and the same ought to be revised.

She further noted that the directive is also an infringement on the student’s right to privacy as their consent is very important in issues regarding their reproductive health and body autonomy.

“We propose to have a meeting with your institution regarding the need for a gender sensitive learning environment. We propose that in the meantime, you allow the students to sit for their examination without any of the proposed restrictions in your notice pending our proposed meeting,”  she added.

The lawyers stressed that the Uganda constitution grants protection of women and their rights, taking into account their unique status and natural maternal functions in society and this same article further prohibits discrimination against women and guarantees their full and equal dignity with men.

The university management in turn bowed to pressure and withdrew the directive.

 “This is to inform you all that the internal memo on pregnancy testing dated November 8 has been withdrawn. Please focus on getting ready for UNMEB,” a circular issued by the deputy vice chancellor, Prof Frank Kaharuza, noted in part.

The directive also attracted mixed reactions among the people on various social media who attacked the university for treating young adults like primary and secondary second learners.

Legislators also joined the discussion when the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, condemned the university’s directive that she described as “harsh”.

“Why would you discriminate [against] women? The issue is not about the Shs5,000 rather it is about the [nurses] not being allowed to sit exams if they have conceived,” Ms Among said yesterday during plenary.

The matter came up for discussion as a matter of national importance after the chairperson of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (Uwopa), Ms Sarah Achieng Opendi (Tororo District Woman MP), alerted lawmakers about the memo.

As the lawmakers began to make deliberations on the matter including a submission from Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality), who pointed out that his faith [Islam] discourages the habit of women getting pregnant before marriage, Ms Among cut the debate short. Ms Opendi then proceeded to inform the lawmakers the letter had been withdrawn.

“But this is [still] very unfortunate,” Ms Among said.
She added: “We condemn the action. We will not allow this to happen. These are not kids. By the time you go for nursing [course], you are above 18 years and even if they were young, we have P.7 kids who have gotten pregnant. This must stop.”

The Speaker’s proposal was immediately backed by the State Minister for Education in-charge of Sports, Mr Peter Ogwang, who said: “KIU Western Campus is the author of that internal memo but as a ministry, the moment we got wind of that information, we were able to communicate to the university.  As we speak now, that decision has been reversed by the ministry and such actions aren’t going to be accepted even for other institutions.”

Compiled by Damali Mukhaye, Arthur  Wadero & Esther Oluka.

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