What you need to know:
- The number of men carrying out Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA tests is hovering in the hundreds.
- Mr Steven Langa, whose Family Life Network devotes every sinew of its being to uphold families, says reconciliation should be the byword when tests raise the red flag.
Three years ago, an average of three people sought paternity test services in Uganda annually as per the Internal Affairs ministry.
Fast forward to today, and the number of men carrying out Deoxyribonucleic Acid or DNA tests is hovering in the hundreds.
DNA tests are provided for in the Registration of Persons Act, 2015.
Ms Rosemary Kisembo, the executive director of the National Identification and Registration Authority of Uganda (NIRA), says tests are provided for in Section 35 of the Act.
The section provides that in case of entry of father in the register in contested cases, a person shall not be entered in the register as the father of any child except at the joint request of the father and mother of the child appearing physically before the registration officer.
Under Section 7 of the Data Protection and Privacy Act, 2019, NIRA has the power to collect citizens’ data if necessary for the proper performance of a public duty by a public body, national security, or medical purposes.
Mr Luke Owoyesigire, the Kampala Metropolitan Deputy Police spokesperson, told Sunday Monitor that there are few cases of people reporting cases that involve paternity disputes.
The Health ministry’s top technocrat, Dr Diana Atwine, also indicated her ignorance at a surge in the number of people conducting DNA tests.
She told this newspaper that the public will be addressed when compelling data is put together.
Yet paternity tests keep dominating the public’s consciousness. Mr Isaac Ssemakadde, a human rights lawyer, says this is down to technology advancement and a loosely regulated environment.
Previously, samples needed to be taken overseas to ascertain the paternity of a child.
Mr Ssemakadde minces no words when he tells Monitor that DNA tests are done in violation of the Data and Privacy Protection Act.
The legislation, he adds, prohibits privacy intrusions and makes clear the fact that the State has to guarantee sensitive data collected from its citizens.
The State’s liability is detailed in Section 20 of the piece of legislation.
Like Mr Ssemakadde, Ms Elizabeth Zakumumpa, a lawyer and women rights activist, warns that DNA tests spell doom for the nucleus of the country—the family.
Mr Steven Langa, whose Family Life Network devotes every sinew of its being to uphold families, says reconciliation should be the byword when tests raise the red flag.
Traditionally, paternity tests have been conducted in a number of communities since time immemorial.
To be clear, such tests were not quite as scientific as the DNA test that as per Dr Emma Sserunjogi of Lifeline International Hospital are performed on a sample of blood, hair, skin, or amniotic fluid.
They, however, in their own crude way, set out to provide answers.
Simon Peter Kaddumukasa Nkolobojjo, a cultural researcher, for instance, says Lake Victoria served the same purpose as DNA tests. The paternity of children would be tested when they became teenagers.
“A contested child would be thrown on the lake shore and in case they drowned and died, that meant a child never belonged to the alleged father,” Mr Kaddumukasa explains, adding that another such test would take centre-stage during the last funeral rites (Okwaabya olumbe) where a ritual called okwalura was performed.
During the kwalura ritual, the umbilical cord that was picked from the baby is smeared with cow dung and thrown up in a specific corner of the family house.
In case it stuck anywhere up, then the child belonged to that particular family.
Mr Kaddumukasa further revealed that some clans pour water in a woven basket and put the umbilical cord that is smeared with cow ghee on top of water. He added that in case the cord floated, the child belonged to the family.
While questions around the reliability of these rituals have grown with the growth of modernism, DNA tests themselves are not tamper-proof.
“In rare cases, results can be falsified if there is intentional tampering with the samples, incorrect handling of the samples, or if an untrustworthy testing facility is involved,” Dr Alton Newton Allan says.
This, though, has not stopped people in Uganda from carrying out the tests in droves.