A school in Swaziland is being criticised by an action group against abuse for a decision to make girl pupils take pregnancy tests.
Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) Communications and Advocacy Officer Slindelo Nkosi said the move was highly discriminatory.
She was responding in the Swazi Observer on Thursday (25 January 2018) following a report in the newspaper that Siphocosini High School parents had agreed that girl children should undergo pregnancy tests this year.
The newspaper said parents thought this was a good idea as it might save them money in school fees. Girls who become pregnant are forced to leave school.
The newspaper reported, ‘The most painful part of this situation is that the fees paid for the pregnants are usually non-refundable hence parents reached this decision.’
The Observer reported Nkosi saying in itself, the decision was highly discriminatory and reinforced gender gaps between Swazi girls and boys, thereby promoting unfair and unequal educational and life opportunities. Boys who make girls pregnant are not punished.
Nkosi said, ‘Prioritising “saving money” and not enrolling or sending a girl-child to school due to being pregnant is counterproductive and detrimental to the lives and future of the affected girls as it increases their vulnerability to unemployment, violence, poverty, illiteracy, HIV and AIDS and a myriad of social challenges.’
She added it was also important to recognise that pregnancy could be a result of several reasons such as rape, which most girls did not report due to fear of being ridiculed or blamed by friends and family members.
Swaziland Human Rights and Public Administration Commissioner Sabelo Masuku said the stand taken by the school parents at Siphocosini High School was new and unknown. The question if there was a violation of human rights could depend on how the pregnancy tests were done. Masuku also raised concern on the discrimination and inequality that could be as a result of the pregnancy tests. A challenge could arise when only the girls were tested for pregnancy yet boys were not tested for the same thing. He said girls do not impregnate themselves, but boys were the ones responsible.
In November 2016 it was reported girls Bekezela Primary School in Lubulini were said to have fallen pregnant ‘due to the poverty levels’. The Swazi Observer reported at the time the children were said to have mainly been impregnated by older men who would promise them food and other necessities.
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