A marriage bureau in south Calcutta was looking for a suitable boy for a former high court judge’s daughter. A match was found and everything was proceeding according to plan till a test found that the groom was HIV-positive. The marriage was called off immediately.
“It is thanks to the test that we have been able to prevent another possible AIDS case in the city,” said a spokesperson for the bureau.
And then there is the flip side of the caution coin. A judge of a district court close to the city went to the same marriage bureau, asking them to look for a groom for her. She clearly stated that she was a thalassaemia-carrier, but this would pose no medical problem for an issue if her husband was not a carrier. No one responded. Everyone presumed, wrongly, that marrying her would jeopardise progeny.
The government, worried about the “appalling lack of awareness” in the city about the spread of HIV and thalassaemia, is moving towards enacting a piece of legislation making it mandatory for every bride and groom to run a blood test for both conditions.
“We will try to amend the rules governing marriage in the next Assembly session,” confirmed state law minister Nisith Adhikari. “Several NGOs have been telling us for quite some time that this is absolutely necessary, given the type of prejudices we still seem to harbour.”
The government, say officials, will amend the law in such a way that certificates confirming tests for detection of HIV and thalassaemia will become as necessary as the government-issued marriage certificates for every couple seeking to tie the knot. “No marriage will be considered lawful without the HIV and thalassaemia test documents,” they stressed.
According to official estimates, around 1.5 lakh marriages are solemnised in the state every ‘season’. The percentage of would-be couples going to a diagnostic centre for a blood test would be less than one in 10.
“This has led to the clamour for inclusion of compulsory tests as a precondition for marriage,” said Anindya Sanyal of Relations, a marriage-consultancy bureau. “The incidence of thalassaemia, AIDS and Hepatitis-B is rising and we should do everything to check it.”
For this, however, more and more would-be couples should start visiting pathological laboratories instead of astrologers, felt Sanyal.
Marriage counsellor Tulsi Basu Chakraborty explained how individual steps are being taken to vault the ignorance barrier. “We have taken to camps for pre-marriage counselling… But an amendment will help make matters legally binding.”