The saying that it is only a mother who knows who the father of her child is seems to be seriously under threat. At least one DNA test which made news a few weeks back here in our country has proved the saying wrong. Technology can sometimes outwit the mother in revealing who the father of a child is. That technology is Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA for short.

Come to think of it, technology can be great but it can also be a pain sometimes. On the bright side, it is a huge eye opener that generations before us have missed out on. It is going to be the world of our children and our children’s children. Technology indeed is not only a mere helper; it is a useful aid that is making life much easier and less laborious. Look at the genius of the mobile phone and the internet which gives us news at any corner of the world the moment it happens. It has brought communication to our doorstep. It is bringing the world closer and creating knowledge.

In the kitchen, aids such as washing machines, dishwashers, food processors, microwave ovens are all things that one marvels at as they make life a bit more comfortable today than the days of our parents.

On the other hand however, there are some scientific discoveries that you sometimes want to wish away. While some are causing needless anxieties, others are coming with side effects based on how they are handled. We have been reminded by scientists now and again about the side effects of mobile phones. We are told that too much exposure to the air conditioner is a danger to health, and so is over dependence on microwave ovens. Civilisation as in exposure to technology indeed comes with a huge price and that includes the genius we have discovered in the DNA.

DNA is said to be the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. It is believed that nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. To me, it is indeed, one of the greatest scientific discoveries in the medical world today in view of its functions.

Around the world, DNA has played key roles in crimes providing forensic evidence in blood, semen, skin, saliva or hair found at crime scenes to identify a matching DNA of an individual such as a perpetrator. For example, the breakthrough arrest last month in Los Angeles of a serial killer who escaped arrest for 25 years.

Using traces of a DNA from a left over pizza crust left by his son who was arrested on a gun charge and matching it with samples of the serial killer’s DNA collected at several sites where his victims were dumped, within a matter of two hours, his 25 years escape from arrest came to an end. On the other hand, thanks to DNA, wrongly convicted individuals have been released from prison.

Making its late debut on the Ghanaian scene however, some of us wish the technology will be used to quicken the arrest of perpetrators of crime. Instead, information that we are gathering seem to point to the fact that DNA is being looked at in some quarters as an opportunity for some men to settle scores with women who are “forcing” paternity on them.

According to a story published in the Mirror of July 10 2010, there is a kind of stampede for DNA test to authenticate paternity of children. We are told that the newly inaugurated DNA centre at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra is creating anxious moments for couples. In the short life of that molecular biology laboratory, more than 600 men have already registered at the centre to contest the paternity of the children they are alleged to have fathered. My reaction on reading that Mirror story was, “what a shame”. And it is indeed a shame for why would any man want to bring humiliation and great embarrassment to some woman they were once in a love relationship with. And how about that innocent child? The trauma that the child at the centre of such challenges may have to go through will live with him or her for the rest of his or her life.

We live in a society where many people have had to look after other people’s children. Does that make them less human? For me, if there are no compelling reasons why any man should rush in for a DNA test, I do not see the need for it. My reason is more of the child involved. Can anyone imagine for a minute, the world of a child whose parents have gone through the process of a DNA test to establish paternity? Unless he or she is too young to know, mental agony for that child as he or she grows up in the community cannot be ruled out. Divorce, even though not on the same scale, could be said to be a closer example of the emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment that children caught in such web may face.

It has been argued a few times that the instability experienced in some children today, the problems of children on the street, of child delinquency, of insubordination, disrespect and lawlessness all have their genesis from divorce or single parent homes. There is no close supervision in such homes and sometimes the hurt of the broken parent is transferred to the children. In the face of the problems we are grappling with children from disturbed homes, why do we want to go through the route of DNA to add to the instability in families and our communities?

Definitely in cases of legal tussles the courts may order for DNA just so that the case may progress. However, just as the courts would not readily grant divorce unless the marriage is broken down beyond repair, so the same courts should be looking at factors like the instability and the damage their decisions to grant DNA test may cause the innocent children at the centre of the dispute.

There are many women today who have had to take hard decisions to stay put in abusive marriages for the sake of the sanity of their children. There are many more who would not press for contempt of court charges against their divorced husbands who disregard court orders to pay maintenance for the children. Instead, they struggle single handed to cater for the children

For the sake of the sanity and emotional stability of the children caught in the web, the mad rush for DNA tests to prove paternity should be reconsidered. We should not destroy the dignity of our children just because two adults have vowed to teach each other a bitter lesson. The personal embarrassment the men who are rushing to do the DNA test may wish on the women concerned may not match up to the destruction they may be causing to the child caught in the middle of it all. Settling personal scores in such delicate family issues through such means may not always achieve the desired end. DNA need not be the cause of unnecessary anxieties in families.

By Vicky Wireko Andoh
Source: Daily Graphic


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