Questioning the logic of broadcasting one’s paternity tests

AIRED on ZBC-TV, Zimbabwe’s sole television broadcaster is the The Closure DNA Show hosted by the famous Tinashe Mugabe a self acclaimed DNA man.

“NechiShona tirikuti baba…hapana chenyu chiripamwana uyu.” That is the vernacular Shona version of,  “We are saying there is a zero percent probability that this child is yours.” This statement has taken the nation by storm which others even doing memes and satires based on this.

The Closure DNA Show has endeared itself to Zimbabwe’s webosphere as well as the public sphere. It’s more of the former than the latter who are ever drooling for more of the Closure DNA show.

He has received rave reviews on social media with many saying he is helping people.

To Mugabe disclosure of sensitive paternity tests is more of a public service announcement.

Last week, Nash Paints boss Tinashe Mutarisi raised the red flag on the DNA Man’s antics stating the publicising of paternity results would have adverse mental health implications on the children who might end up being bullied at school.
Mutarisi received a massive backlash from Mugabe’s fans with some threatening to report and unlike the NashTVZimbabwe page on Facebook.

Curiosity in times where promiscuity is believed to rife in the world has led to the rise of DNA paternity tests. Yet there are professional ways of handling and delivering paternity tests and results.

That they should be broadcast on air or social media is something that many agree is unethical.

In America is a reality how called Paternity Court with a cast and crew including the host judge Lauren Lake. Most thought this was a real court events yet it is just pure acting. Not that this is bad but it is just for entertainment purposes.

The same goes for another US TV host Maury Povich who is now renowned for his tabloid show, Maury.

At least in the shows there is some mention of provision of psychological assistance.
Closer to home is UTatakho, a South African reality TV show where people write to producers seeking clarity on paternity tests.

The content on Utatakho walks a fine line between tabloid and drama, where the sensitive cases could appear as sensationalised.
“The subject matter on the show is serious and sensitive, so we had to be sure that we could produce it in a way that made both ourselves and channel comfortable that our responsibilities had been dispatched,” Gelman adds.

The individuals on the show are counseled before and after the paternity tests are taken and the elders in the family are also involved in the meditation talks,”show’s content producer, Kopano Gelman told the Mail&Guardian in 2015.
In 2015, the show had chosen actor and music star Zola (born Bonginkosi Dlamini), a familiar face to reality TV, as the host of Utatakho.
““I have been to child court and I won the case but that’s not what the media said. So I relate to Utatakho on a very personal level. I know the pain directly and I wonder how many men go through the same thing. I was smeared heavily in the media and my 11 year-old daughter, Lwandle is being bullied at school because of those stories,” he said.

Back to Zimbabwe, DNA shows have been deemed by authorities such as the Medical and Clinical Laboratory Scientists Council of Zimbabwe (MCLSCZ) as nefarious.

MLCSCZ is a regulatory authority whose purview is regulating control and supervise all matters affecting the training of persons in, and the manner of the exercise of, the medical laboratory professions.

This Council broke its silence following the splashed DNA paternity results in the media and or social media.

“One of such matter of public importance acquired by the Council in the performance of its functions under the Health Professions Act (Chapter 27:19) is the publication of unscientifically substantiated percentage paternity tests results in the Sunday Mail of 5 September 2021,” said MLCSCZ chairperson Ranganayi, Chari C Mubvumbi.
“Mr Tinashe Mugabe of Global DNA of The Closure DNA Show and Jane of Expediate DNA Zimbabwe Tilder Live Zim Show are not registered members of the Medical Laboratory & Clinical Scientists Council of Zimbabwe nor sister Health Professional Councils in Zimbabwe.

” Mr Tinashe Mugabe and Jane are not professionally qualified nor competent to issue those test results.”

MLCSCZ added that Mr Tinashe Mugabe of Global DNA of The Closure DNA Show and Jane of Expediate DNA Zimbabwe Tilder Live Zim Show are not registered members of the Medical Laboratory & Clinical Scientists Council of Zimbabwe nor sister Health Professional Councils in Zimbabwe.

” Mr Tinashe Mugabe and Jane are not professionally qualified nor competent to issue those test results,” said the chair.

The council explained that the two organizations are registered with Council as DNA collection sites and not testing sites.

“According to the Health Professions Act, medical laboratory test is requested for by qualified and registered clinicians.

“Upon successful completion of the testing process, the test results are sent back to the requesting clinicians who are qualified to advise patients and clients in an ethical manner
“Professional Code of Conducts of various health professionals in Zimbabwe clearly states that divulging either orally or in writing, any information concerning a patient/client test result ought not to be divulged to third parties except where so required by law,” said MLCSCZ chair. “Therefore, the Medical Laboratory & Clinical Scientists Council of Zimbabwe condemns such unethical practice on the poor and the marginalised population by Global DNA Zimbabwe and Expediate DNA Zimbabwe. The Medical Laboratory & Clinical Scientists Council of Zimbabwe urges the Zimbabwean population not to be coerced into receiving Paternity results in such unprofessional manner.”

Mugabe and the Global DNA Zimbabwe are adamant their show is authentic along with the results. The company in a statement said they are seeking legal recourse.

From from the episodes seen on The Closure Show, there is hardly any mention of psychosocial support for all persons involved.

Infinite Health News sought comment from psychologists on the negative impact of airing paternity tests on National TV.

“It’s quite an interesting development that is taking place in the country. I’m not sure whether that is real in terms of what they are doing because I have watched a lot of videos of Tinashe Mugabe and the company doing those live shows. And I’m not sure if that is real. If it is real, then it poses a lot ethical issues in the sense that these are things that are supposed to be confidential within families. This implication of mental health implications is quite daring.
“If you look at it now that the children who are impacted, by these disclosures have not consented to their personality being dragged into this and it is something that will hang on their necks for the rest of their lives. Yes, knowing a parent is something that is critical but there are levels that we need to take into consideration to say at what age does a child has to know their real parent. Will they be able to take it from a mental health perspective?,” said a psychologist Dr Kudakwashe Muchena.

He added, “And besides that Im not sure if the guy is qualified enough to be able to disclose such confidential information in that open space. This is something that psychologists should be able to handle in a controlled private space just making sure that those impacted get necessary support when it comes to their mental health. Because even if you look at HIV, you can’t disclose someone’s HIV in public. You need to discuss. They have the right to disclose their own statuses. Its not something that we can openly discuss in a TV show. To say now I’m disclosing your HIV status in public. It doesn’t work that way. The same applies to paternity.”
He said paternity disclosures demand a private controlled environment where the participants are given pre- and post- disclosure counselling.
“Im not sure how this is being modelled but from the clips that I have seen, you this guy just pops in and says now Im going to disclose your paternity results. Have they gone through the pre disclosure counselling sessions to prepare them for the results? After the results , are they offered mental health support to say these are the result, what do you think, how are you going to handle this. We might get excited about the hype about DNA tests and all this bbut the mental health impact is quite daring,” said Dr Muchena.

Dr Muchena noted that Mugabe could be playing with fire.
” This is a dangerous thing that we are so excited about which impacts heavily on the mental health of parents, children involved. For the children, it’s a life long thing. These clips are being shown in the public eye where everyone can see. So you don’t want someone 20 years later asking if you met your father because its in the public. So this is quite daring and it needs to be stopped immediately until and unless they put proper structures to be able to control how this process is done in a more private and secure environment. There is need for professionally qualified people to be able to handle this.
“Im not sure what qualifications he holds but I don’t think he is a professional. If he was he wouldn’t be doing that because that is highly unprofessional,” he said.
He added that men are more affected by the public disclosure of paternity results.
“Men are equally affected. Actually they are worse affected because they have taken care of these children as theirs and they are now being told that it not theirs. These men need serious counselling,” said Dr Muchena.

A mental health specialist Mrs Charity Maruva said people who go through paternity testing are already subjected to mental health issues such as anxiety and stress alongside feelings of guilt, shame and betrayal.
“They need adequate pre and post counselling support. Disclosing results to the whole world multiplies the issues they have to deal with and I wonder why they decide to do so? What are they benefitting from discussing private issues in public? Are they so intent on shaming and embarrassing themselves and their family?” she quizzed the rationale.
Mrs Maruva noted that there is consent and informed consent.
“They may consent to the public disclosure but are they fully informed about all potential negative impacts of their decision prior to giving consent? Do they get any support to deal with consequences from whoever is benefiting from the public disclosure ?
“Sometimes there are minors evolved who need protection from the Government in such matters. The world is currently grappling to deal with mental health issues including suicide , as such it is in our interest to make sure that we are not doing things to increase such cases,” said the mental health specialist.

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