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Rehema Kantono, the Public Relations Officer at IUIU, stated that the institution is rooted in Islamic principles, and as a result, both students and staff are expected to adhere to rules and regulations that align with these values.
The Islamic university in Uganda has advised a women's pro bono initiative and other female activists opposed to the mandatory pregnancy tests at the institution to respect the university's values and principles.
Recently, a memo was posted on the notice board of the Mbale-based university notifying all female resident students about the requirement for a mandatory pregnancy test before the semester commences. The memo has since created a debate on online platforms and in the public.
This is to inform you that the pregnancy test for this semester will begin on Wednesday 20 September 2023 to Tuesday 26th September at the university health centre starting at 8;00 am – 5; 00 pm,” the memo read in parts.
In response, the Women's Pro Bono Initiative (WPI) an NGO in the field of offering legal support to females and girls has since come out and expressed strong objections to mandatory pregnancy tests. The group composed of mainly female lawyers has written a letter to the university rector and issued a press statement, calling for the rejection of its implementation.
Rahom Maria Bukirwa, the Program Manager at WPI, emphasized that mandatory pregnancy testing for students is perceived as infringing upon students' rights and potentially impacting their emotional well-being.
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Bukirwa emphasized that compulsory pregnancy testing goes against the principle of informed consent. It's crucial to acknowledge that the choice to take a pregnancy test should be made by the individual.
According to Bukirwa, enforcing these tests on students without their agreement diminishes their autonomy and disrespects their right to make personal decisions about their bodies.“Subjecting students to mandatory pregnancy testing perpetuates harmful stereotypes and assumptions. It presupposes that all female students are sexually active and potentially pregnant, thus reinforcing outdated notions of morality and stigmatizing those who may not conform to societal expectations,” she said.
She further noted that the policy in question fails to address the diverse circumstances and experiences of students and may lead to discrimination and marginalization.
The Women Probono Initiative recommended that the university prioritize the promotion of comprehensive sexual education, easily accessible reproductive healthcare, and support networks for students instead of imposing mandatory pregnancy testing. Bukirwa added that by offering students the essential tools, knowledge, and assistance, the university enables them to make informed decisions about their reproductive health while upholding their autonomy.
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The statement has sparked discontent among some members of the Muslim community, with various voices on social media suggesting that the Women Pro Bono Initiative (WPI) is intruding into an area where they lack understanding.
But Rehema Kantono, the Public Relations Officer at IUIU, stated that the institution is rooted in Islamic principles, and as a result, both students and staff are expected to adhere to rules and regulations that align with these values. She pointed out that pregnancy tests are among the requirements for female students, as long as they are not married.
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Kantono emphasized that these tests have been standard practice at IUIU for many years and do not compromise students' privacy, as the results are not made public. However, she also noted that these pregnancy tests are not unique to IUIU, as many educational and other institutions also conduct similar tests.
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In 1988, the Islamic University in Uganda came into existence through a bilateral agreement between the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Government of Uganda (GOU). Subsequently, in 1990, the Ugandan Parliament passed legislation that officially recognized and established the university.
The university's primary objective at its inception was to deliver high-quality education while upholding Islamic values and principles. Although deeply rooted in Islamic traditions, IUIU is inclusive and welcomes students from a wide array of cultural and religious backgrounds.