The Anambra State House of Assembly has enacted a law making genotype test compulsory before marriage, and barring parents, guardians, traditional rulers or group of persons from giving out their children/wards in marriages without presentation of a certificate of verification by a qualified sickle cell expert of their genotypes.
The law known as Sickle Cell Disease Control and Eradication Repeal law, seeks to eradicate sickle cell anaemia in the state and set those living with it free from all kinds of oppression, abuse and exploitation.
The bill passed on Tuesday was sponsored by the member representing Anaocha II constituency, Charles Ezeani and 15 others.
With the bill, parents and guardians in Anambra State risk imprisonment if they give out their children or wards living with sickle cell anaemia in marriage without verification of a qualified sickle cell disease prevention certificate.
Also at risk of jail are priests, pastors and marriage registries that perform such holy matrimony.
It further stated that, “anybody who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N200,000 or imprisonment to a term of three years or both.”
The law also puts in place a monitoring committee to ensure its compliance.
The Sixth Anambra House of Assembly passed the bill after scaling the last reading, during plenary.
Ezeani, who described the bill as life-saving, added that the development would put a stop to the notion “that love is blind” by ensuring that intending couples must present their genotype test before marriage.
He commended the Speaker of the Assembly, Mrs. Rita Maduagwu and other members of the Assembly for being the first to pass such health enhancement bill into law in the country.
National Coordinator of People Living with Sickle Cell Anaemia, Aisha Edwards, who witnessed the plenary, commended the lawmakers for the feat.
She said the law would protect sickle cell patients from all forms of discrimination and marginalisation in the state.
Edwards noted that the law above other things bars all forms of discriminatory practices against carriers of the disease, both in employment and admission into schools.