The motherhood penalty for female students
When it has to be addressed broadly, a problem that is both vital and disturbing has received less attention. Students in educational institutions are often penalized for embracing motherhood. They have no room for maternity leave and suffer from an educational gap, unnecessarily.
Sociologists came up with the phrase “motherhood penalty” to describe the pay gap and prejudices at work against pregnant women.
Almost all educational institutions in Bangladesh require students to maintain a particular level of attendance before they can sit for exams. Due to the biases associated with parenting and the lack of a student maternity leave, these students’ ability to pursue an education is being hampered. Before and after pregnancy have different effects. Both phases need special attention, care, and circumspection. Academic pressure coupled with pregnancy-related health conditions affects both the mental and physical health of pregnant students.
Sections 45–50 of the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 focus on maternity leave policies. There are sufficient government laws, but they are barely supporting female students in their pregnancies. The female faculty members also enjoy their maternity leave and other facilities, yet there’s a huge disparity when it comes to students.
In Bangladesh, the legal marriage age for girls is 18; however, the social context forces women to have children as soon as they marry. It is unfortunate that completing a proper academic life takes at least 24 to 26 years yet there’s no provision for maternity leave within that time frame, which results eventually in unwanted dropouts. Again, we are talking extensively about women’s empowerment. It is contradictory.
Leading universities around the world, including the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, McGill, and Salford, have their own strong policies that guarantee a pregnant student or new mother can continue her education without suffering any academic loss. Bangladesh needs to accommodate maternity leaves soon to reach the ultimate developing country, ensuring equal rights for expectant women of all classes.