Proposed compulsory DNA testing could violate constitutional rights

Stefanus Nashama

The leader of the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC), Panduleni Itula, expressed concern yesterday that the legislature’s proposed compulsory DNA testing might infringe upon fundamental constitutional rights.
“In my informed view, compulsory DNA testing, without an accompanying criminal offence, would likely fail a legal challenge. I cannot envision a judge authorizing it without violating a basic constitutional right,” Itula declared.

His comments follow a proposal from the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Christine //Hoebes, earlier this year. She suggested that lawmakers should explore ways to make DNA testing mandatory and more accessible. The idea of obligatory DNA testing has also gained traction among the general public.

//Hoebes contended that such measures could address issues like fatherlessness, instances where fathers harm mothers and children upon discovering they aren’t biologically related, and cases where men unknowingly support children that aren’t theirs.

She also cited stress and other social complications surrounding these scenarios.

Reports indicate a divided national assembly on the topic of mandatory DNA testing.

Itula, who is not only a politician but also a medical doctor and legal specialist, countered that Parliament is a creation of the Namibian Constitution. As such, it cannot and should not legislate measures that infringe upon anyone’s fundamental rights.

“There’s a fundamental constitutional right protecting every individual’s integrity, rooted in the principle of self-determination,” he emphasized.

Itula suggested that the complexities surrounding compulsory DNA testing warrant a different approach. The government should focus on comprehensive public education detailing the moral and societal implications of such testing.

He explained, “We need to recognize the liberty, dignity, and self-determination of the Namibian people, all of which are safeguarded by our constitution. While individuals have the right to DNA testing, we must ensure this aligns with constitutional protections and self-determination principles.”

Supporting his stance, Itula referenced the Namibian Constitution, specifically citing “Article 7 (liberty), Article 8 (dignity and integrity), and Article 21 (freedom of association – without coercion).”

He asserted, “Given these constitutional articles, making DNA testing compulsory would constitute a criminal offence.”

Furthermore, Itula elaborated that collecting any body part for testing should involve informed consent, overseen by a registered healthcare professional.

This process should ensure all relevant information is provided, including potential implications and test accuracy.

“For paternity DNA tests, consent should be sought from the alleged father, mother, and the child involved,” he insisted.

While Itula acknowledged a father’s right to pursue DNA testing, he stressed the importance of understanding the test results’ implications.

Every competent adult, he argued, has the right to decide what happens to their body, including their body fluids and tissues.

In conclusion, Itula reminded individuals of the potential ramifications of their choices.

“Engaging in sexual activity can lead to disputes, and individuals must be prepared for the consequences,” he cautioned.

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