IVAN MUGUONGEYO: Why DNA testing will radically reshape definition of family

Ivan Muguongeyo, a Common Wealth Youth Correspondent in Uganda (PHOTO/Courtesy).

Ivan Muguongeyo, a Common Wealth Youth Correspondent in Uganda (PHOTO/Courtesy).

KAMPALA – DNA testing technology is a hot topic now. There is news all over social media platforms about men secretly conducting DNA testing on their children, and to their surprise, some of these so-called biological children turn out not to be their own.

We live in the era of genetic reckoning, where you can easily spit into a vial or swab your cheek to learn about your genetic relatives and ancestral past. Most of the time, the outcomes are only interesting. According to police statistics, the number of men seeking DNA paternity tests for their children in Uganda has surged by 70%. DNA testing technologies are beginning to have a major impact on Ugandan families.

But, before I can dive into the nitty-gritty of the matter, please allow me to pose these questions. I promise to answer all those questions. Why are men secretly carrying out DNA tests on their presumed biological children? What does this mean for the family as an institution? And how can we approach this situation humanely?

Firstly, among the reasons why the men opt to carry out the test is to avoid the responsibility of fathering children. The cost of living has soared beyond imagination. Raising and grooming children can be expensive. It involves a lot of sacrifices and committing a lot of resources to meet the medical, academic, financial, and other needs of children.

Assume that none of the three children belong to you. Nonetheless, you are expected to pay fees in expensive first-class schools. Then one day you wake up to discover that these children do not actually belong to you. That is truly mind-boggling!

Secondly, the breakdown of the family institution is another issue. The family which was the basic unit of society supposed to inculcate and instill morals today are fading away. The current generation of mothers and fathers do not want to listen to marital advises from their Sengas and Kojjas hence the breakdown.

Finally, I think the media has done more harm than good in this scenario. There are a number of studies that show the relationship between social media especially Facebook and marital infidelity. Apparently, it’s easier to conceal an adulterous relationship on Facebook.

How do we deal with this DNA-testing monster? We must first return to the basics. The sacredness of the family as the fundamental unit of society is threatened when DNA evidence is used as a weapon to keep children out of a particular family rather as a shield to ensure their inclusion. A broad view of family dynamics fosters social solidarity, peace, and stability.

Second, the additional harm that DNA testing to indigenous people poses is inexcusable as long as our disputes are still decided in a foreign language, based on concepts of “family law” and “private property” drawn from a foreign jurisprudence.

Finally, there should be accredited laboratories with certified genetic counselors that are authorized to do such tests. Some of the DNA kits may be contaminated, which could produce false test results. Thus, it’s critical to get DNA testing done at a trustworthy testing institution that is accredited with a high level of accuracy and data privacy; otherwise, we risk sitting on a ticking time bomb!

The writer, Ivan Muguongeyo is a Common Wealth Youth Correspondent in Uganda

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