By Job Bwire
Some men have had to face the reality that a child they have raised and become emotionally attached to is not actually theirs! Richard has gone through such an experience.
His father was a Kampala-based wealthy businessman and politician who died about two years ago. The politician’s older children conspired to lock Richard (the last born) out of any inheritance, saying they doubted his legitimacy.
Richard’s mother was their father’s youngest wife. However, his siblings argued that by the time she got pregnant, their father was too old to father a son.
To settle their differences, the family lawyer said a DNA test was necessary. But since the old man had long died, it required that all the more than 10 children undergo the test, so that their collective DNA could be matched with Richard’s.
Tables turned when, after tests were done, the results showed that five of their late father’s children were not biologically his. Richard, however, was found to have indeed been fathered by the politician.
The situation has degenerated into something close to a Mexican soap opera, as the battle on how to divide the wealth goes on.
The saga reveals a situation in Uganda where men are said to be raising children that are not theirs without their knowledge. While some suspicious males may opt for secret paternity tests, others go to their graves in ignorance.
According to Michael Magino, a marriage counsellor, this situation has become common and is on the rise in Uganda. He does not substantiate his argument with statistics, but says some women conceal the truth from their husbands for reasons best known to them.
A recent research by Statex Research, a new city pollster, revealed that almost 30% of men in Kampala could be raising children fathered by other men.
The research, whose data was collected from seven private laboratories in the city and the Government Chemist, also revealed that six out of every 10 men who go for paternity tests find out that they have been caring for another man’s child.
Further, eight out of 10 illegitimate children are usually first born children. This means that if the women cheated, then this probably occurred during the first few years of their marriages. But some female respondents said they were in the early stages of pregnancy at the time of getting married, something their partners did not realise.
According to George Musisi, a legal officer with Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, unknowingly raising children who are not biologically yours may have legal and social consequences.
Legally, the man may go to court to seek a declaration order of parentage over the illegitimate children or remedies and compensation for the costs of raising the illegitimate children. However, Musisi says this has never happened in Uganda.
Socially, when a husband realises that the woman he married has betrayed his love and trust, the shocking news is likely to result into a domestic quarrel.
“If the children are born in a legally or socially recognised marriage, there is a presumption that they are for that man. Hence abusing the trust he had in you (his wife) may result into physical abuse of the innocent children,” Musisi explains.
According to Brenda Kansiime, a psychologist with KAN Counselling Services, about 30% of all the marriages that happen in Uganda are unplanned. She argues that either of the partners could have been knowingly or otherwise dragged into the marriage.
“Some women enter marriage with selfish interests and these days, rarely do we have girls who enter marriage when they are still virgins,” she said.
She observes that the likely consequence of one raising or caring for another man’s children without their knowledge is psychological torture for the victims (the man and the child) and can cause self-destruction and family conflict, like in the case of Richard.
Kansiime says after such an experience, some men tend to entomb themselves into self-rejection, while the children sink into depression and a sense of worthlessness, since they no longer have a sense of belonging. All this can lead to self-destruction.
“Lack of a sense of belonging is equivalent to a lack of identity and in such a situation, the children may lose themselves and their love and trust for the parents, especially the source of the scandal.
Besides, a number of marriages have broken down as a result of infidelity or betrayed trust between the couple,” Kansiime adds.
Why keep such a secret?
Most women opt to keep the secret surrounding an illegitimate pregnancy out of fear. They are afraid of what might happen should their spouse, family and the society find out that they have been unfaithful — rejection and humiliation of both her and the baby.
Linda, a university student, says, especially among single girls, it could be a way of trapping a man into a long life relationship or that the girl was dating two boys at the same time.
“You find that you got pregnant by mistake with this unserious boy, and you were dating two boys at the same time, what do you do? Choose the serious one, who will take care of you and your baby.
Men bring home children all the time, even after marriage, for their wives to take care of. It is just that society judges women more harshly, so you decide to keep quiet,” she says.
Kansiime adds that because some women enter marriage with a lot of expectations and selfish interests. If those expectations are not met, they end up committing adultery. She especially attributes this to a lack of sexual or material satisfaction, especially at the initial stage of their marriage.
Kansiime recommends early preparations before marriage, such as sex education and an emphasis on trust and loyalty. She says this will help avoid temptations that could lead to problems such as these.
“There is also need for spiritual input. Marriage is a contract between three people — God, the bride and the groom — and needs to be respected accordingly.
“It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice from both partners to enjoy a happy and everlasting marriage based on love, respect and mutual trust,” she concludes.