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Govt criticised over student doctors’ pregnancy order

by Sunday Express
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Pascalinah Kabi 

THE government has resolved to evict from its residences all junior doctors who fall pregnant during their two-year housemanship programme. The move has not gone down well with the Lesotho Medical Association (LMA) who have branded it as “discriminatory” and a “violation of basic human rights”.

The Ministry of Heath’s deputy principal secretary, Advocate Lesimole Moletsane, wrote a memo to all junior doctors on Wednesday, informing them of the rules of their internship, including the move to kick them out of their residences when they go on maternity leave.

“Interns on maternity leave will be required to vacate the houses during their leave period as they will not appear on the rotation schedule,” Adv Moletsane states in on 24 June 2020 memo.

The ministry feels the evictions are justified as the interns will not be on duty during their maternity leave.

However, the LMA has hit out at the move, saying it was a clear violation of women’s sexual reproductive rights.

“It goes against all ethos of good labour practice and further seeks to violate our female colleagues’ rights to have children when they decide to,” LMA spokesperson Dr Joseph Mashale said in an interview with the Sunday Express this week.

Dr Mashale said most local students spent up to 11 years studying medicine, meaning the majority would be in their late 20s or early 30s when they become junior doctors.

He said by then females would be under immense societal pressure to start families.

“A decision to evict pregnant doctors from their apartments is as good as telling them not to fall pregnant and that is a violation of their basic human rights. They are basically being told to freeze their eggs. This is discrimination of highest degree,” Dr Mashale said.

He said attempts to raise this and many other issues with the Ministry of health have so far failed to yield the desired results.

He however, said they were hopeful that newly appointed Minister of Health Motlatsi Maqelepo and his deputy, Nto Moakhi, would address their long-standing grievances over the “unfair treatment” of local doctors by the government.

“We have sat down with them. They listened and promised to get back to us with answers. We are hopeful our problems will be finally addressed,” Dr Mashale said.

Mr Maqelepo and his principal secretary Khothatso Tšooana’s mobile phone rang unanswered when this publication called them for comment yesterday.

Mr Moakhi said he was not aware of the directive to evict pregnant junior doctors as he had not been in office this week.

Lesotho has signed many international and regional conventions on regarding women’s rights and gender equity such as the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development.

The CEDAW convention states that “the role of women in procreation should not be a basis for discrimination” against them.


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