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Genetic testing in Kenya: Dad’s Not Around?

The structure of DNA

Deoxyribonucleic Acid, the nucleic acid that carries the genetic coding in all living organisms, is hard to say and difficult to spell so no wonder it was abbreviated to DNA. It’s also pretty much unique to each organism so there’s about a one-in-a-billion chance of anyone else having a DNA to match yours. That does mean of course that in a world of nearly seven billion people there could be six others on our Earth with a DNA profile that is nearly identical to your own but these are long enough odds to make a DNA test an all but conclusive business.

A recent article published in the Standard online (‘Banking on fatherhood dilemma’, 29/09/2011 by Kenfrey Kiberenge) reported that there is an increasing demand for DNA testing in Kenya, even at Sh35,000 a shot, as more and more men want to find out if they are the real fathers of the children they are raising.

Interestingly, a growing percentage of paternity tests are turning out as negative according to Mr Kinyanjui Murigi, the Chief Executive of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) a former sales executive turned forensic expert who in the early stages of his life had to seek a DNA test to establish the paternity of his then girlfriend’s baby. 50 per cent of paternity tests undertaken by men in 2007 at the Government chemist revealed that the children were not theirs while at the CSI, the figure stood at 37 per cent for 2010, a nine per cent increase from the previous year.

A discussion on the paternity issue aired recently on one local radio station revealed that some Kenyan women are choosing who to sire their children with and who to raise them. One woman confessed that her husband is a loving and caring family man but there was no way she could ever imagine her children having his looks, so she searched for a man who was more endowed physically to father her two children without her partners knowledge. This she did crossing her fingers that her looks would be more dominant in the child (which luckily for her was the case).

Another man expressed his bitter feelings when he found out that he was not the father of the seven year old boy he had raised and loved as his own, when the boy was admitted to hospital and there was a need for a blood transfusion. Caught between a rock and a hard place when both her blood and the husband could not match the son’s, the woman was left with no choice but to call in the biological father to come and save her son’s life by giving blood

james Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA

James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA

In Kenya we say, ‘mtoto ni wa mama’, in English ‘the child belongs to the mother’. This is because, maternity in most cases is not questionable, after all by nine months there is a bump announcing to the world a new mum to be. For paternity however, the truth as to who the real father to a child is lies with the woman, or with a DNA test!

The Forum’s not quite sure how to react to this growing trend but we think it might be an idea to have all our politicians tested, not to find out who their fathers are but rather to ascertain whether they have a father at all…

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October 2011
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