A university in Uganda has withdrawn a requirement for female nursing and midwifery students to take a pregnancy test before sitting their exams, after facing a backlash.
Kampala International University issued a notice on Tuesday stating: “This is to inform all female nurses and midwives that you are supposed to go to KIU-TH for a pregnancy test at a fee of 5000 UGX paid to hospital accounts office.”
It added: “Failure to do so, you will not sit for UNMEB (Uganda Nurses and Midwives Examinations Board) exams.”
The fee of 5,000 Ugandan shillings is about $1.33.
Epidemiologist Catherine Kyobutungi, executive director of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), shared a photo of the notice on Twitter on Wednesday and wrote: “This is total hogwash, discriminatory and unacceptable.”
She added: “Female nursing and midwifery students being asked to take a pregnancy test, at their own cost as a pre-condition for sitting exams is peak nonsense!!!”
Dr. Githinji Gitahi, CEO of non-profit Amref Health Africa, responded by tweeting: “What? Why? Really? Because pregnancy has what to do with exams? The fetus gives undue advantage in the exam? I am so confused.”
Women’s rights organization FIDA Uganda posted a photo of a letter it sent to the private university, reminding the institution that Article 33 (3) of the country’s 1995 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 of women and guarantees their full and equal dignity of the person with men.”
On Thursday, the university reversed its policy.
“This is to inform you all that the internal memo on pregnancy and pregnancy testing dated 8 November 2022 has been rescinded (withdrawn),” wrote Professor Frank Kaharuza, deputy vice chancellor of the university’s Western Campus, in a statement shared by the university on Twitter.
“Please focus on getting ready for your UNMEB exams. I wish you all the best in the forthcoming exams,” he continued.
The university also responded to FIDA Uganda in an email, shared by the rights group on Twitter, confirming that “no student will be stopped from sitting their exams because they have not taken a pregnancy test.”
FIDA Uganda tweeted: “We are grateful for the cooperation of the office of the vice chancellor and seek to remind all scholarly institutions that any attempts to police the bodies of students represents a discriminatory action against the student body and is a violation of their physical autonomy.”
CNN has contacted Kampala International University for comment.