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DNA test: Don't try this at home if you can't handle truth

 

An Illustration of DNA molecule. [Getty Images]

The January tedium occasioned by too much time at home, and too little money after the Christmas festivities, has somewhat dissipated, after it emerged that a DNA home-testing kit is available for a modest sum of Sh800.

And typical of Kenyans, the online chatter lifted the rafters, one would think just about everyone would be ordering the kit to administer own test. The kit has been received like a plaything.

First, some correction: it’s untrue that the results would be instantaneous so no one should walk away from the dinner table fuming: let me get that DNA kit and confirm…

Well, the truth is that the kit is only for sample collection; the results can only be processed in a lab and that will take some time and more money. A typical test will require Sh15,000 and deeper analysis might gobble some Sh20,000.

But money is not the problem; Kenyans have trust issues, not just with our electoral systems and the leaders who get elected, they also fear being cuckolded. And it starts with harmless remarks: Haki huyo mtoto hafanani na wewe…

The noun, cuckold, is described in the dictionary as a man whose wife is sexually unfaithful.

The gender constructions in our society presuppose that a woman will only stray from her matrimonial bed to seek something she’s not getting at home. And because there is such stigma towards infidelity — even the law allows divorce to cure such transgressions — the prospects of such information coming to light has been vigorously contested.

That’s why it’s only courts that can order DNA tests. The idea is to preserve law and order. And, as has been witnessed all too often, parties that have something to hide will frustrate paternity tests from ever taking place in their lifetime.

But now, at the click of a button, one can order a kit and gather DNA samples for testing. It could be swab in the nose or mouth, a clip of the nail, a pluck of hair or a drop of blood. Similar materials would be secured from the other parent and offspring. A few days later, the results trickle in on email. Or, one may order a physical delivery of the results.

Research findings from our country point to startling statistics: four in every ten men are raising children who are not their own.

To use a term currently in vogue, they were dealing with community wives.

So, if a plumber or carpenter or gardener comes into your household regularly, there is a possibility they might have fixed more than just your leaky sink, or pruned more than a bed of roses!

There is a potentially sound argument for this mix of bloodlines and it’s rooted in our social history: our forefathers understood genetics and to guard against plagues that wiped out entire families, ensured a child or two would be sired outside their genetic pool.

This practice was socially, though subtly, encouraged. It was their insurance against hereditary diseases.

The advances in science negate this argument, but if 40 per cent of women will conceive with other men, besides their own spouses, perhaps this would make a good case for polygamy as men can distribute their risk of raising children who are not their own. In any case, the numbers also highlight the failure of monogamy.

As for those intent on taking the DNA home-test, there is a caveat. One should fully and truthfully answer this singular question: can you handle the truth?