A MAN has infected 300 other people with the HIV virus in East Sepik, a United Nations Development Program-funded workshop was told.
In another instance, a wealthy Papua New Guinean man living with HIV/AIDS just recently married his 12th wife.
These were among the shocking revelations at the UNDP-backed leadership development workshop in Port Moresby… [Post Courier]
It’s shocking. It’s irresponsible. I do not know what the pertinent laws in New Zealand address the issue. But the article made me take a second look at The Family Code of the Philippines. Sometimes, it takes an actual case to see the loopholes in the law.
Having an incurable sexually-transmissible disease is a ground for annullment. When either the man or the woman has a sexually-transmissible disease at the time of the marriage, whether incurable or not, and the fact is concealed from the other, there is fraud; fraud is also a ground for the annullment of the marriage.
However, the law does not require a disclosure prior to the marriage. Neither does the law require medical tests as a requirement for marriage.
There are only two essential requisites for marriage under Philippine law: 1) legal capacity and 2) consent, freely given. There are also two formal requirements: 1) authority of the solemnizing officer and 2) valid marriage license, except in certain cases. The information required to be given by both parties for the issuance of a marriage license does not include anything on sexually-transmissible diseases. Put another way, the information required are only those that are necessary to determine both parties’ legal capacity and consent.
First, is there an invasion of privacy if the state requires all prospective husbands and wives to disclose–prior to the marriage–if he/she is suffering from a sexually-transmissible disease? Second, is consent freely given when vital information has been withheld from the healthy spouse?
Invasion of privacy
The individual’s right to privacy is never absolute. It is always weighed against public interest. Although no one wants a situation where the state can arbitrarily curtail the right to privacy, the question remains: is HIV/AIDS not serious enough to warrant the protection of public interest? It should be remembered that the risk of infection is not limited to the healthy spouse alone. Their future children will be at risk too.
Consent, freely given
Consent presupposes that the person giving it has all the vital information that will make the consent a real one. How can a person give or withhold consent for something he is not aware of? Consent to contract marriage means consent to have sexual relations with the spouse. In other words, if a person knew that his/her future spouse had a sexually-transmissible disease, would he/she consent to the marriage at all?
It is especially significant that should the healthy spouse discover afterwards that his/her partner is suffering from a sexually-transmissible disease, he/she can claim fraud and have the marriage annulled.
I don’t get it. Why let the parties go through the rigmarole of marrying and later having it annulled when the facts could be established before the marriage is celebrated? Why does the law not give each of them the best opportunity to give not just any consent but an intelligent choice? Do I need to add that by doing so public interest is better protected as well?
I also need to ask this. Is there a centralized database with all the information on marriages annulled because one or both partners suffer from a sexually-transmissible disease? Shouldn’t there be one? Shouldn’t the information be made available to all civil registrars so that before issuing any marriage license, the applicants’ names can be checked against the database?
In a way, what the law lacks can be explained in terms of our culture. In Filipino culture, things like sexually-transmissible diseases, rape and incest are “private” things. They are skeletons in any family’s closet that most would prefer to remain buried long after they are all dead.
Well, one man’s shame may mean the death of another–an innocent one. And all because he was too ashamed to disclose that he had a sexually-transmissible disease.