Qatar school bans teachers from getting pregnant

Principal warned teachers that getting pregnant would likely negatively impact their performance; critics say ban violates human rights.

By KALINDI O’BRIEN/THE MEDIA LINE
October 18, 2010 10:02
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo

pregnant woman 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [illustrative])

 
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The principal of a girls’ school in Qatar has told her teachers not to get pregnant and said she was not hiring any pregnant applicants in a move reportedly aimed at boosting academic excellence.

In a part of the world where women have struggled to become part of mainstream Arab society, the unexpected diktat provoked harsh criticism from teachers at the school, women in academia and the human rights community.

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“This is a violation of human rights, Qatari rights, Arab Labor Rights for women and Islamic Laws,” Dr. Fadwa El Guindi, Head of the Department of Social Sciences at Qatar University told The Media Line. “There is nothing that says when you are working you cannot be pregnant.”

The school, which was not named, was reportedly upgraded from semi-independent to a full-fledged “Independent School,” a status that called for outstanding results under an official plan to boost education standards.

The principle told the staff that she would not be accepting new applications from pregnant teachers wanting to work at the school. This referendum includes pregnant teachers previously employed by the school when it was semi-independent, but had to re-apply under the new school status.

The principle’s decree came as a result of new pressures for academic excellence and a fear the pregnancy and the subsequent maternity leave would mar teacher’s performances.

"I am against recruiting pregnant women as teachers," the Principle was quoted as saying by Qatari Daily The Peninsula.

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The Principle even told married teachers not to get pregnant to ensure that their work performance would not be affected.

Dr. El Guindi, who struggled with issues of discrimination during her own pregnancies, admitted it was discouraging that so many countries in the world were still not willing to accommodate women during this time of their lives.

“Women carry the burden of bearing the child and nursing the child. There is nothing to be done about this,” Dr. El Guindi said.

Guindi added that the move was particularly insulting since it took place at an all girls’ school, where getting pregnant just became a punishment.

“I think it will affect the girl’s sense of identity and the young women [at the school] will be very confused as these rules are against the culture yet happening in their own school,” Dr. El Guindi said. 

Faisal Hassan Fulad, the Regional and International Director of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society, noted that the Principal’s ban on pregnancy was not only in violation of human rights but was also in contention with the CEDAW, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

“The ban means that in Qatar there is discrimination, harassment and abuse towards women marrying, having relations, becoming pregnant and having children,” Hassan Fulad told The Media Line.

Hassan Fulad pointed out that when a story like this emerged from Qatar, a country under heavy government censorship; it showed that there were likely far more such abuses that have gone unreported.

“If these women who are working in a private school are having problems with discrimination what about the female domestic workers who number somewhere between 80-90 thousand, or the women working in the factories? What about their rights?” Fulad asked.

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