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Pre-marital checks law to be amended

COUPLES with hereditary or incurable diseases could soon be forced to get a court permission before getting married.

MPs have proposed major changes to the 2004 pre-marital check-ups law - the first Bahraini law to be drawn up by parliament - that would have restrictions introduced on engaged couples to ensure public health safety.

Parliament approved the amendments yesterday, which will be revised by the government, before being properly drafted.

Under the current law, it is compulsory to get a certificate from the Health Ministry that states a couple has undergone pre-marital check-ups.

The tests focus on two hereditary diseases - sickle cell anaemia and thalassaemia, and three incurable diseases - HIV, hepatitis and syphilis.

However, the law does not stop people carrying such diseases from getting married.

The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs sent a letter to MPs, saying it was against the Sharia or human rights to stop anyone from getting married if they choose to do so, even if they had the conditions.

However, parliament services committee secretary Dr Jamal Saleh argued it was essential for judges to take the decision in such cases to prevent emotions from getting in the way.

"The pre-marital check-ups law is excellent and has stopped many from getting married after knowing the condition of their partner, but there are others who didn't seem to care and went ahead," he said.

"There are cases of HIV carriers who got married to healthy partners despite the risk because they loved them, but love is not the issue here."

MP Somaya Al Jowder, who is former National Incurable Diseases Committee chairperson, said the issue was complex and giving power to courts was the most logical decision.

"Incurable diseases don't spread easily and someone with HIV could have a healthy sibling through proper medications, but nothing is guaranteed," she said.

"We have managed to convince people about the dangers of getting married to an infected partner, but there are cases in which people refuse and decide to go ahead, and here we want them to be stopped.

"HIV, hepatitis and syphilis medications cost the government a lot, that's an issue, and we already have a certain number of patients, which we don't want to be increased through stubbornness or emotional actions.

"We believe that courts are the last resort to stop those individuals from going ahead with their plans."

Dr Al Jowder explained that Cyprus has already introduced a legislation banning such marriages.

"We understand that in Bahrain marriages can't be banned and for that we should impose more restrictions," she said. "There is nothing against the human aspect of marrying someone who is sick, but we have to be rational here." mohammed@gdn.com.bh



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