Call for free DNA tests in clinics

File photo: Padilla told the newspaper Clarin that several things were still being questionead, including how a false DNA test arose and why the woman believed she was Anahi.

File photo: Padilla told the newspaper Clarin that several things were still being questionead, including how a false DNA test arose and why the woman believed she was Anahi.

Published Oct 8, 2015


Durban - Free DNA tests at state clinics that prove paternity could save taxpayers millions in welfare grants, court costs and Home Affairs bureaucracy by forcing deadbeat dads to take responsibility for their progeny.

This is the view of University of the Witwatersrand associate professor, Dr Mzikazi Nduna, who said the latest findings of research into the sexual and reproductive health rights service provision at public clinics had found there was great shame among mothers when fathers denied paternity.

The research is still to be published but was presented in a panel discussion at Wits University earlier this month.

Participants in the study were black women in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

Nduna, who is based at Wits’s psychology department, said proving paternity through DNA tests would unburden the state of the burgeoning cost of child support grants and save the courts’ time wasted in disputed maintenance cases.

“While confirming paternity does not guarantee an active and involved father, it is at least a step towards holding men accountable and easing the burden on government,” she said.

Lulama Nare, of the Commission for Gender Equity, agreed with the findings.

“Patriarchy is not sensitive to the unequal power relations between men and women, so men easily escape accountability.”

The commission also supported the call for free paternity testing, with Nare saying it would deal with the “punishment and stigmatisation” of women, especially young women, whose pregnancies were rejected by their partners.

“Patriarchy is so entrenched in our society that it is the young woman who is immediately looked at as promiscuous when all the man is doing is avoiding caring for a child he is 50% responsible for creating,” Nare said.

The study found that the women who were interviewed claimed men were, “stubborn and always wanting to do things their own way”. Women also felt that they could not get their partners to co-operate and listen.

They found it difficult to choose when and how many children to have because of a fear of physical violence from their partner, no money, a backlash, blackmail, pressure or losing him to another woman.

Nduna acknowledged that confirming paternity did not guarantee an active and involved father, but was at least a step towards holding him accountable.

A 2011 Institute of Race Relations study found that more than 9 million children in South Africa were growing up without their fathers. The responsibility for the education, health care and welfare of most of these children fell on the state.

The NGO Africa Check said there were at present 11.5 million children receiving the government’s R320 a month child support grant.

An applicant had to earn an annual income of less than R38 400 (if single) or R76 800 (combined income if married) to qualify.

“A ‘means test’ is done when the application is captured, using bank statements and government records,” Africa Check said.

“These grants are also paid on a sliding scale, which means that the more private income an applicant has, the smaller the government grant.”

Nduna said: “Where a mother goes to court to seek maintenance, a man can merely deny paternity and a whole other proceeding needs to take place for this to be resolved before an order for maintenance is given.”

This wasted court resources, she said, as did mothers who had no choice but to claim child support grants to feed their “fatherless” children by milking state funds.

The declining cost and easy accessibility of DNA testing meant that fresh discussions were now needed on how to use progress in science to assist women and the government.

“Home Affairs says children can no longer travel abroad without an unabridged birth certificate. Which imaginary father does a mother write down when her child has been denied?

“There are so many examples of how the state could save a lot of money on other services by providing paternity testing services,” Nduna said.

Lumka Oliphant, Department of Social Development spokeswoman, said she needed to read the study and its recommendations before commenting.

* DNA testing to determine paternity is available through private companies from about R1 000. These can be either through blood or other bodily tissue or cotton swab tests.

The National Health Laboratory Service also does blood tests on referral, in writing, from a magistrate’s court, a doctor or a lawyer for a fee, paid in full, before the test is done.

Daily News

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