DNA Test Results Can’t Deny Paternity to Children Born Within Wedlock

Frank Tietie

The recent trend of using DNA testings to confirm the paternity of children born within a marriage with the aim of publicly denouncing paternity, is not only irresponsible but highly selfish and seriously harmful to the dignity and general psyche of the children.

The public disclosure of the contents of such DNA test results to the public, is most reprehensible. Why would any man subject a child or children born within wedlock to such psychologically debilitating encounter, foisting such traumatic experience that will permanently scar the self-esteem of such children, especially older ones, for life? It is utterly cruel and selfish! It is plain wickedness that is vindictive and propelled by crude vengeance. It must be condemned.

Let it be known that by our law, in Nigeria, particularly, Section 165 of the Evidence Act, provides that all children that are born during the continuance of a valid marriage between their mother and any man, or within 280 days after the dissolution of the marriage, so long as the mother remains unmarried, the law and the court shall presume that such children in question are the legitimate children of that man.

Whereas, the above provision of the law is rebuttable by DNA testings, such tests in many cases as reported, can possibly go wrong. There are indeed, reported cases where DNA tests have been obtained by fraud, subject to manipulation and have been easily tampered with. The reputation of the lab which conducts such DNA tests and the processes adopted by the labs in collecting and dealing with the samples for testing, must also be fully disclosed in the event where the DNA testing results are made public. This can afford all those affected by the results, to subject such DNA testings to further scrutiny. And until that is done, claims based on such results are not conclusive.

There is a currently and widely reported case of a judicial officer who issued a public statement regarding the paternity of his (erstwhile) children, based on the results of DNA testings he conducted. That is the judgement of a man who presides in judgement over the affairs of the State and men. It is also further reported that this said judicial officer’s children, who have been affected by his public declaration of the DNA testing results, are grownups (young adults). They must indeed, be terribly embarrassed and devastated by the public declarations made by the said judicial officer, their own father.

But, it should not end there. Such adult children that are affected by an unwarranted public disclosure of DNA testing results, must be quick to institute legal proceedings against such a father. The legal action must first, be to subject the man who made such public disclosure of DNA test results, to some form of psychiatric testing in order to determine his well-being, as to his state of his mind. This should be done before further inquiries are made of him in court, for the purpose of subjecting him to fully disclosing the material particulars preceding and succeeding the DNA testings which he initiated. This is to determine the validity and conclusiveness of such DNA testing results. Thus, If such a father didn’t spare his children of the trauma of publicly disclosing the DNA testing results that affect them, such children must NOT spare such a father, a proper public trial, in order to determine both his sanity and the validity of the DNA testing results.

For children that are minors, a man should not think that by obtaining DNA testing results proving that a child or children born within wedlock are not his, would indeed, shield him from providing care and maintenance for such a child or children affected by the results. That cannot excuse him from discharging his parental responsibilities to the children. To that particular extent, a man cannot profit from his covert or overt marital negligence, in allowing his wife to be involved in extramarital affairs and to effect make it an excuse to negatively affect children (human beings) that are born within a marriage. After all, the children could have been his as a marriage is expected to produce children, by the way. Therefore, such a man must take care of all the children (minors) that are born within the duration of the marriage as specified by Section 165 of the Evidence Act.

In addition, the child’s or children’s right to parental care, protection and maintenance is guaranteed by Section 14 of the Child’s Right Act. This right is enforceable against the parents and guardians of all children below the age of 18 years that are born within or without marriage and, cannot be derogated from, even by the results of any DNA testing.

Frank Tietie, Human Rights Lawyer; Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER), Abuja

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