The law recently passed by the Kaduna State House of Assembly to make medical examination mandatory for couples intending to get married in order to prevent the danger of passing on some hereditary diseases to offspring is very timely. The law, cited as the Kaduna State Pre-marital (Medical Examination) Enforcement Law 2017 stated that any person intending to marry shall submit him/herself for medical examination before the conduct of the marriage.
The law provides that any person who contravenes any provisions of the law commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine of not less than N100,000 or imprisonment of not less than six months or both. It also provides that any health facility, health worker or any other person who issues a false result or assists in the issuance of same commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of N200,000 or imprisonment of not less than one year or both. According to the bill, the medical examination including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and genotype test among others shall be conducted twice, three months before the marriage and two weeks to the marriage. The examination shall be conducted simultaneously for both parties in an approved health facility while the result shall be explained to them by a medical doctor who must issue a certificate.
The Chairman, House Committee on Information Nuhu Goro Shadalafiya called on the Executive arm of government to embark on massive enlightenment and awareness on the law after the passage of the bill. He said if implemented the law would enhance and increase the life span of families as well as improve the state’s economy. The spread of HIV/AIDS is often done accidentally through marriage, especially when some intending partners either do not know their HIV status or they fail to disclose their HIV positive status to their partners. In a society where many husbands are polygamous, it puts too many people at unnecessary risk.
People are not really aware of the dangers of contracting hepatitis but with this law they will know that it is equally serious and as for the genotype test, it is better for the couple to know their genotype before getting married and give birth to children that have sickle cell anaemia. Some parents become too stressed that at the end, it leads to their separation compounding the situation of the children.
However, we must worry about the practicality of this law. This is because the state has not often dabbled into matters such as marriage, preferring to leave them in the hands of social institutions. The likelihood of societal resistance is quite high, but we have to start from somewhere. Churches, mosques and parents that contract traditional marriages must all be brought into enforcement of this law. The fact is that some communities in some states have been conducting pre-marital HIV/AIDS voluntarily, so the law is only intended to further this practice and make it mandatory.
Another problem could arise due to cost. Some of the tests do not come cheap, providing an excuse for some intending couples not to do it. Such persons must however be reminded that the cost of a test is only a fraction of the cost of HIV, hepatitis or sickle cell treatment, apart from the distress. On the whole, we see Kaduna’s new law as a very good and timely one indeed and we urge other states to take a cue from it. It must however be preceded by massive public enlightenment. Marriage should no longer be seen as a personal or private matter that government should not go into, given the grave health implications that it has for the community as a whole.
It is the responsibility of the authorities to see to the welfare and other aspects of the people.