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Germany

Who's Your Daddy?

Father's rights groups in Germany are fighting to retain their right to have secret paternity tests without a mother's permission. They say it is the only way to combat "paternity fraud."

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Fathers want to know if they're the biological parent of their child

In a debate over paternity tests in Germany -- father's rights groups are lobbying to block proposed legislation banning secret tests without the mother's permission -- advocates are employing increasingly alarmist arguments. One group, the Network for Paternity Tests, claims on its Web site that making the tests illegal would lead to an increase in incest between half brothers and sisters who don't know they're related.

But the core of their argument, that fathers have a right to know if the child they have been supporting financially and come to think of their own is in fact their biological offspring, is gaining sympathy. German politicians and medical ethicists are divided, and it is not certain that the new legislation proposed by the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens will be passed.

A fringe issue steals spotlight

The debate began quietly in 2003, when as part of a larger packet of legislation intended to curb the misuse of diagnostic tests by employers and other interested parties, the German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries decided to address the increasing number of anonymous paternity tests procured by fathers without the mother's permission.

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Paternity tests are becoming more common

In her opinion, such tests threatened the integrity of the family, many of which break up after a negative result, and violated the rights of a child. "Secret paternity tests violate the rights of the child and the mother," she said. "They also violate data protection laws."

According to Zypries and her supporters, which include prominent Green parliamentarians, the rights of the child supersede the rights of the father.

Fathers fight for their rights

A growing movement of father's rights advocates in Germany, who have united under the banner The Network for Paternity Tests and launched a Web site at pro-test.net, take issue with Zypries' line of argument. They have started a grassroots effort, complete with buttons and bumper stickers, to block the legislation.

With a few Christian Democratic and Free Liberal politicians currently in the German opposition coming out on their side, the movement is gathering steam.

Incest claims

In addition to arguments stressing a father's right to know, the network opposing the legislation has made some other fairly remarkable claims. They say banning the paternity tests could result in an alarming rise in incest, since half brothers and sisters -- who are not aware they are related -- may become involved.

The group also claims so-called "test tourism" could mushroom, much like the abortion tourism which became prevalent in the 1970s when German women who were prevented from having abortions at home travelled to the more liberal Holland.

They also counter advocates' claims that secret paternity tests endanger the rights of the child and break up families. In their view, it is far more harmful for children to grow-up in a family held together by a web of lies.

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