When you’re pregnant you have many things to worry about, but having your rights violated shouldn’t be one of them. Since International Women’s Day just passed, we thought it would be best to address the rights you have as a pregnant woman in varsity.
The right to education
According to section 29 of the South African Constitution, everyone has the right to basic education- this includes adult basic education. Even though you may be pregnant while in varsity, you have the right to attend your lectures and complete your qualification just like everyone else until you’re no longer able to due to the pregnancy.
The right to human dignity
Section 10 of the South African Constitution speaks about human dignity. Everyone has the right to have their dignity respected and protected. So, although you may feel ashamed about being young and pregnant before completing your studies, no one is allowed to strip you of your dignity by humiliating you or abusing you for it.
The right to equality
Everyone is equal before the law, even pregnant varsity students. No one has the right to discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language or birth. Your lecturers and peers can’t mistreat you or treat you differently to other students simply because you’re pregnant (as stated in section 9 of The South African Constitution).
This is a law that isn’t in the South African Constitution, but it’s a law that all educational institutions who are dealing with pregnant students should adhere to. Tertiary institutions should grant pregnant students time off for check-ups and doctor’s visits, while providing them with time to catch up on assignments, exams or any work they’ve missed during that time. This will be possible if a student has made arrangements and has told her lecturers about her pregnancy.
Pregnant students are encouraged to speak to student advisors or their lecturers about their pregnancy. The information disclosed by the student shouldn’t be shared with anyone else without the student’s consent. If this happens, it’s an infringement on the student’s privacy which is punishable by law (section 14 of the South African Constitution), and is also unethical. Being pregnant doesn’t mean you should lose your right to confidentiality.
Rights come with responsibilities. Remember that if you don’t disclose your pregnancy, your rights may be violated unintentionally. The South African Constitution has all the rights you have as a South African citizen, pregnant or not. Ideally, every educational institution should have a policy document that clearly states the rights of pregnant students.