Nigerian clergy banned from marrying sickle-cell partners in church
CLERGY IN NIGERIA have been banned from marrying couples where both are carriers of sickle-cell disease.
The injunction was made by the Bishop of Awka, who also called on his clergy to require testing for the disease as part of pre-marital counselling.
Sickle-cell disease, or sicklecell anaemia is a common genetic condition due to a haemoglobin disorder – inheritance of mutant haemoglobin genes from both parents — that causes life-long health problems and leads to an early death.
It is largely concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and among populations of the African dias- pora in the Americas and Europe.
Approximately 300,000 infants are born with the disease each year.
According to the World Health Organisation, in West African countries like Nigeria and Ghana the frequency of the trait is between 15-30 per cent.
In Uganda, however, it shows marked tribal variations, reaching 45 per cent among the Baamba tribe in the west of the country.
The WHO say that a person who has inherited only one mutant gene from one parent will lead a healthy life, but the child of two carriers of the dis- ease will likely have major health problems.
Following a meeting last week with the head of the Association of People Living with Sickle Cell Disorder, the Rt Rev Alex Chibuzo Ibezim said the church’s responsibility was to support those living with the disease “in whatever way we can.”
But he said that the church should also take an activist role in preventing the transmission of the disease to future generations.
It is “one thing is to make laws and another thing is for people to obey them. The clergy cannot follow them to their bedrooms to force them, especially if they had done the traditional marriage,” he said.
He pointed out: “We in the church make sure that, as part of the counselling before marriage, we educate the intended couples on the dangers of going ahead to marry when they are not compatible genotype-wise, because it is better to make sure that the person you are about to marry is somebody that is compatible.
“Marriage is all about relationship and the end product of marriage is children, unless it is a marriage where children are not wanted, then there is no need to worry about sickle cell.”