Nige­rian clergy banned from mar­ry­ing sickle-cell part­ners in church

The Church of England - - NEWS -

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.”

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