By Sharanya Gopinathan
Back when I was studying in an all-women’s college in Bangalore, a classmate of mine ended up failing a semester because she didn’t meet the attendance requirement for that term. Because she was in the last trimester of her pregnancy. When a group of students went to speak to the Dean about her situation, and the college’s mechanism for dealing with similar cases (which occurred all the time, and usually ended with the student dropping out), the Dean responded that the college does take lots of measures to make things easier for pregnant students. When pressed for details on what these measures were, she supplied, “We allocate them ground floor rooms for their exams so that they don’t have to climb the stairs.”
The Haryana government is taking a great step that’s much more useful than my alma mater’s. They’ve decided to allow married female students in government colleges and universities maternity leave benefits up to 45 days at a stretch. They’ll be able to avail this benefit with the permission of the chairperson of the department, or by submitting a valid medical certificate.
A senior official told DNA that the move was in response to seeing a large number of married students, or students who got married during the course of their studies, dropping out of their courses mid way due to maternity. This move is supposed to be a step ahead in their Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, and we’re sure it’s going to help a lot of women.
It’s an excellent move that other states and institutions should look at emulating, but you also have to notice how the specifics of the move make for a really good example of how the government perpetuates the primacy of marriage. Considering that both married and unmarried women can get pregnant, and given that these maternity benefits can be availed by providing a medical certificate, this is really a move that can and should apply to both married and unmarried pregnant women. The fact that it will only be available to married students shows just how the government unnecessarily privileges marriage over other relationship structures.
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