If the DNA doesn't fit, you must acquit
Every man has the right to know if he is the biological father of a child and not have to depend on a woman's word. (Photo: Pixabay)

Member of Parliament for St James Central Heroy Clarke seemed to have been very daring to suggest mandatory paternity testing for babies at birth. He opined that the implementation of such a procedure would drastically reduce the high levels of domestic violence, citing a study conducted by Dr Herbert Gayle, social anthropology lecturer at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

Many people strongly disagree with the comparison made and lambasted the legislator's position; however, several others, including a significant number of women, have indicated support for it, albeit that the issue of crime extends beyond the “jacket” syndrome.

Whether we want to believe or accept it, we have a serious paternity issue in our country and it is about time we stopped pussyfooting around the matter. Over the years, media houses have unveiled some troubling statistics about the number of Jamaican men who have been wrongfully pinned with a child, only to discover years later (if any at all) that the child they have been supporting does not share their deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

Usually, this grand truth is revealed during the filing process for migration to a more developed economy. But why should a man have to take on the responsibility in the first place to support a child that is not his own? Of course, this excludes cases where couples agree to blended unions and whatever other consensus they arrive at in their relationships.

We live in an era that is amplified by activism and human rights, sometimes to our own detriment. What is worrying is that we sing the tune of women empowerment only when convenient; however, we ought to be fair and strike a balance. Why is it considered woman-shaming to mandate paternity testing, but a man should be fine with supporting a child that is not his?

Many of these women know who impregnated them, yet they purposefully give the child the incorrect family name. Clearly, a DNA test may mean a loss of income from such a man and, frankly, it could also involve violence in instances of discovered deception. Nonetheless, every man has the right to know if he is the biological father of a child and not have to depend on a woman's word.

We cannot mandate the sexual activities of consenting adults, but whose responsibility is it when women sleep around and then are unsure who impregnated them? Should any random man become the victim? Conversely, men do sleep around as well, and they should be held accountable for their actions. This therefore means that both genders need to be more cautious about how they handle their sexual encounters.

Numerous men have been embarrassed when it is discovered that a child given to them by a women may not be theirs. Many are jeered by their peers or community members.

Let us be truthful; many of us know of at least one such situation.

While DNA is not solely about physical appearance, some of the cases are very obvious – the child was given the wrong daddy. The physical features, voice, attitude, etc are reflective of those of the next-door neighbour.

Ultimately, one of the most important stakeholders — the child — is often forgotten. How does a mother expect her child to fully trust her when she has betrayed his/her trust even before he/she was conscious? There may not be empirical data to cite, but children who are jackets sometimes grow up to resent their mothers, and fathers too. They experience ridicule and are often bullied.

Every child should have the right to know his/her parents. It is a part of one's identity – one of the things that make us unique. Some people may argue that it is in the best interest of the child, sometimes, to not know his/her father, but many children would prefer to hear that their fathers were unsupportive, rather than be lied to and given the wrong last name without any explanation.

As for me, I am always fascinated by people, some of whom I really do not know, who randomly approach me to ask if so-and-so is my mother or father. For some, I resemble my mother; for others, I am the carbon copy of my father. Then there are those who say I am the “dead stamp” of both my parents.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Similar to the states of emergency (SOEs) imposed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in response to the spiralling crime rate, though debatable, a plan must be implemented to address the blatant disrespect to men and children. We cannot continue to advocate for human rights and advance notions of feminism loosely and conveniently while neglecting our responsibilities.

Oneil Madden is a PhD candidate in didactics and linguistics at the Université Clermont Auvergne, France, and president of the Association of Jamaican Nationals in France (JAMINFRANCE). Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or oneil.madden@uca.fr.

Oneil Madden
Oneil Madden

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