Choosing my words carefully. Tall young man, calm, few-worded and soft-spoken, walks into our home unannounced. Asks to speak with our maid – in the dim, distant past, when we still had a maid. She introduces him as the son of a neighbour from the village, 250km away. The visitor, who, I had thought was just saying hello, stays a whole day in deep conversation, during which he reintroduces himself to our maid as her blood brother! So at 25, our maid finds out the man she had called ‘neighbour’ was actually daddy all along.
Apparently, parents from the two homes were perfectly aware; but they’d lived peacefully with each other all along. Our maid was thrown into confusion; didn’t know whether to laugh, smile or cry. The Lord created people to live together in families, and in doing so, bonds, unbreakable bonds – and which, it is desirable, remain unbroken – are built over time. We find security in knowing this is family and that becomes the foundation on which we build our lives.
Sudden news that this is not family, at least in the biological sense, becomes an earthquake, measuring like 9.5 on the Richter scale. For the non-geographers, a 9.5 earthquake that passes through Kampala will literally cause the ground to make waves and will leave nothing but rubble – even the likes of Crested Towers and Workers House will be nicely flattened.
I was tickled recently by a tweet that went viral. It was by Priscillah Abasa, who was immensely amused by the sight of so many men, kids in tow, queuing up for DNA testing – to confirm paternity – at a lab in Kampala. From what she said, it appears the mothers of the kids were not aware of the testing; the men had basically sneaked away from home.
For many men, the coming of DNA testing to Kampala is the best thing to happen to them, ever since sliced bread! Every little quarrel with his woman is not deemed concluded until a DNA test has been conducted.
One particular case really did – and still does – stink. After a good quarrel, the wife announced she was leaving. The man, in a bad mood, but managing to maintain self-control, quietly said she could go, but not with his kids. The wife was very surprised. “Which kids?” she asked.
Reading her lips really good, the poor man dashed to the lab. DNA tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And truth does hurt! The test proclaimed, with nothing but clarity, there was not a chance in the world that any of the five kids was his. The father-child bonds, patiently built over so many years were shaken to near falling-apart, the joints creaking and on the verge of coming loose. “How old was the man?” I hear you ask. Answer: not a day under 65. Try that for size!
A man learns, in the evening of his life that the kids he has so diligently and lovingly raised are not his. And the wife still wants to make heaven? Hell, no!
It is interesting that while the coming of DNA technology didn’t excite government to do things like setting up a national DNA database and mainstreaming its use in crime scene analysis, it did excite individual citizens, actively reshaping social dynamics, with devastating effect. Untold stories have been told; secrets, covered for so long have been unearthed and families, living happily for so long, have been torn apart.
DNA has redefined domestic violence! Heartbreak for men and children. Embarrassment for mothers. If it were possible it would be a good idea to, by law, limit and regulate DNA testing so we let certain sleeping dogs lie. Like the generation of my maid’s fathers held, a child you have raised is your child, regardless of the blood ties or to be precise, lack of them. Forget the biology, embrace the chemistry!
I often joke in church that, going by the demographics of attendance, heaven will definitely have more women than men. But now with the tales that the DNA tests tell, I have serious doubts: seems to me there just might be very few women in the eternal city that the Saviour is preparing.
Mr Gawaya Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org