Sickle Cell Anaemia is a congenital form of anaemia characterised by abnormal blood cells having a crescent shape. Studies have over time shown that this blood disease occurs mostly among the black race.
Many decades ago and perhaps even now, and especially among the not so well enlightened population, children dying from complications of sickle cell disease were mainly (and are still being) attributed to some sort of evil spirits or the activities of local deities who requited the child’s life unless some sacrificial rituals were made.
But in most modern societies these days sickle cell anaemia has been well understood to be a disease that cuts short the life of many a sufferer. Studies having shown that in curbing the disease sufferers and carriers of the gene responsible for it ought to be discouraged from getting married unless on the grounds of well guided counsel and understanding of the disease by the intending couple.
Recently, the Anambra State House of Assembly with the aim of achieving this set objective among its citizens passed into law a bill outlawing any marriage in the state unless the intending couple possessed a certificate that declares them as being free from sickle cell anaemia.
In seeking to eradicate the blood disease in the state, the state Lawmakers passed the bill called ‘Sickle Cell Disease Control and Eradication Repeal Bill’. Consequent upon this, no parent, guardian or group of persons will be permitted to give out a young lady’s hand in marriage without the verification of a qualified sickle cell disease prevention issued certificate pertaining to the status of the man and woman to be joined in marriage.
Also, the law places a ban on religious bodies from carrying out wedding (ceremonies) without the certificate, and warns that anyone caught flouting the law would be liable on conviction, to a fine of N200,000 or imprisonment for three years, or both. To adequately pursue its implementation, the law will engage a state monitoring committee to ensure strict compliance.
Describing the bill as a life-saving law when fully in place, Charles Ezeani who sponsored it stated that it is bound to put a final stop to the notion that ‘love is blind’ by making sure that intending couples must as a matter of obligation present their genotype tests prior to consummation of marriage.
While applauding the efforts of the speaker, Mrs. Rita Maduagwu and members of the sixth Anambra State House of Assembly, Chief Ezeani remarked that the Anambra State House of assembly remains the first state legislature to pass such a health enhancement bill in the country. On her part, the National Coordinator of people living with sickle cell anaemia, Mrs. Aisha Edwards, also praised the legislators for ratifying a law that is aimed at safeguarding sickle cell patients from all manners of discrimination and marginalisation in the state.
By Sally Ahmed