Tuesday, June 18, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Why bar married students from staying in dorms?

  • HC stays functionality of JnU notice 
  • Activists question existence of such rules
Update : 01 Nov 2023, 03:01 PM

Many women find it challenging to continue studies in this male-dominated conservative society where over 50% of girls are married off before reaching 18 and most men look for teenage girls and young women for marriage and tend not to allow them to work.

Rights activists and sociologists say barring married and pregnant women from staying in dormitories will discourage them from pursuing and continuing higher studies after marriage.

According to Section 17 of the Jagannath University Hall Residential Facilities, Living Conditions and Conduct Rules 2021, married and pregnant students will not get seats in the hall. Accordingly, the Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib Hall authorities issued a notice on September 25 to married and pregnant students to vacate the hall. The hall authorities say married girls are the responsibility of their husbands. Singles will be allowed to stay in the hall on a priority basis.

When asked what kind of complications the authorities have to face in case of pregnant and married students, hall Provost Deepika Rani Sarkar told Bangla Tribune: “Other students' problems are more than our problems. They complain to us at various times that they have to face various problems due to their pregnant roommates.”

The hall authorities are also facing some problems, she said, adding: "There is no house tutor in the hall at night. If pregnant students have any problems at night, who will look after them? How will the authorities take that responsibility?”

She said: “The responsibility for married students can be taken by their husbands. They do jobs and can keep their wives in other places if they want. It is not possible to exclude the single students or those without parents, and keep the married ones in halls. We already have 1,200 students against 800 seats.”

However, many single and pregnant students do not agree with any of the provost's claims. They say that there are many married women whose families live outside Dhaka. As students, they are entitled to seats in the halls. It is not the responsibility of the authorities to see whether a pregnant or married student’s husband has money or not. No one knew about the existence of the law based on which the hall authorities have issued the order. They also question how a university can have such a provision.

In 2021, after the marriage of a student of Dhaka University, her seat in the residential hall was cancelled though there is no law or rule in this regard.

When asked how appropriate it is to have such a rule in a university, human rights activist Sultana Kamal said: "When we were studying in the university, we heard about such a rule, but we never saw it. 

“It is grossly unfair. We claim that we have progressed in terms of civilization…we have changed our laws along with various evolutions along the way. But if we think we are moving forward, there is no point in having such a provision.”

JnU notice, HC stay order 

On September 25, the authorities ordered married and pregnant students of Begum Fazilatun Nessa Mujib Hall to leave the hall. Otherwise, necessary action would be taken against them.

Meanwhile, women's rights activists feel that no university can take such a decision on the basis of “marital status”. This decision will disenfranchise the students. 

On September 27, a Supreme Court lawyer sent a legal notice to the university administration asking it to withdraw the directive. It says: “As a result of the provisions as directed, married and pregnant students will be deprived of the opportunity to pursue higher education. There has been serious dissatisfaction and anger among the female students regarding this issue.”

According to Article 27 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, all citizens are equal before the law. Article 28 (1) (2) says the State shall not discriminate against any citizen solely on the basis of religion, caste, caste, gender or place of birth. Men and women will get equal rights at all levels of state and public life. 

The authorities then raised the question of why the students would take legal recourse, and refused to go into any consideration of the issue. 

Later, seven organizations -- BLAST, Brac, ASK, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Naripokkho, Bangladesh Women's Health Coalition and SERAC Bangladesh -- filed a writ petition with the High Court based on information received from right-to-information applications made to 38 universities, which had found that several of them have rules under which women’s movement is restricted as are the visitors they are allowed.

The High Court bench of Justice Naima Haider and Justice Kazi Zinat Haque on Tuesday stayed the functionality of the notice till March 1 next year. The court also asked the authorities why the issuance of the notice shall not be declared illegal.

At the same time, the university has been asked to submit a report on the discriminatory provisions regarding the residence and living conditions, and rules of conduct and discipline regarding males and females, married and unmarried students, to the court by March 1. 

The education secretary and the chairman of the University Grants Commission have been asked to submit this report.

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