The adage a woman knows the child is hers, while a man only believes rings true for statistics released by the Harare Magistrates Civil Courts where the majority of men who challenged the paternity of children in the last six months discovered that they were raising other people’s children after DNA tests proved negative.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing is generally considered to be the most accurate testing method available. DNA paternity testing can indicate that a man is highly likely to be the father with about 99.9 percent accuracy or that he is excluded as being the father with 100 percent accuracy. Statistics made available by the Harare Civil Courts yesterday revealed that at least 72 percent of the men were exonerated from paternity by the tests, but not before forking out a lot of money in maintenance.

Of 11 men who disputed maintenance claims brought to the court between January and June this year and when the court ordered paternity tests, eight were found to have been looking after other people’s children. The statistics have raised concern that these cases could be just a tip of the iceberg with more men taking care of other people’s children as not many demand or can afford paternity tests.

DNA paternity tests are conducted in cases where a man raises doubt of having fathered a child. Paternity testing can determine whether or not a particular man is the biological father of a child. This procedure involves collecting and examining the DNA of a small sample of bodily fluid or tissue from a child and the potential father. DNA is the unique genetic “fingerprint” that makes up a person’s genes and chromosomes.

When a baby is conceived, each parent passes on half of his/her DNA to the baby, whose genetic code (DNA) is a shared mix of only its mother’s and father’s DNA. By collecting and examining a small sample of DNA from the baby and the potential father, a paternity test can confirm or disprove that the potential father is indeed the biological father of the baby.

If the man contests paternity, he is given up to six months to undergo testing during which period he is ordered to pay interim monthly maintenance until the results are out.

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