English Writer Exposes Practice of First Cousin Marriage Among Pakistanis

Tazeen Ahmad has written a simply incredible article below on the long-ignored problems associated with the marriage of first cousins by Pakistani families in England and other parts of the world. Ahmad not only describes the birth defects that arise but the pressure that led to first cousin marriages in her own family.

There is a long tradition of first cousin marriage in Pakistan which is viewed as strengthening the family and keeping assets within the clan. It also produces common birth defects such as deafness. Her mother was the first child to live beyond childhood and five of her sisters died as babies or toddlers.

She exposes a problem that few politicians were willing to discuss in fear of a backlash from the Pakistani community. In England, more than 50 per cent of British Pakistanis marry their cousins and in cities like Bradford the figure is an astonishing 75 per cent.

The article shows the continuing dangers of first cousin marriages. However, there remains a constitutional law question of whether, with proper testing on such genetic defects, consenting adults should still be allowed to marry despite being cousins. The prohibition on such marriages raises interesting questions if the couple agrees to a thorough genetic test to reduce the chances of such defects to the same as the rest of the population. The Pakistani experience is more acute due to generations of inbreeding.

Source: Daily Mail

17 thoughts on “English Writer Exposes Practice of First Cousin Marriage Among Pakistanis”

  1. Mr. Turley appears to have no idea what he is talking about when he states that “However, there remains a constitutional law question of whether, with proper testing on such genetic defects, consenting adults should still be allowed to marry despite being cousins.” The rate of birth defects after a single first-cousin marriage is roughly the same as a mother faces due to her age when she gives birth at age 41. Yet we do not talk about whether “with proper testing” a mother should be allowed to have kids near menopause. All this said, there is a constitutional law question of whether it is unconstitutional to ban first cousin marriage or charge couples with felonies for being first cousins, as happened in Texas recently:


    And the “simply incredible” article by Tazeen Ahmad was actually a very misleading article. Read the facts here:


  2. And anyone who moves to Tibet can have as many kids as they like so that the Tibetans become the minority in their own country.

    I live in an English town with a large Pakistani community and would certainly agree with the mental problems – they don’t all want to blow us up, but there are lots of young lads here who just LOVE to cause trouble with white people (especially when they have a few of their mates to help out) then will cry racist if the Police manage to get involved.

    There have been immigrants from many parts of the world come here since 1950 and most have integrated and their cultures have enriched our own. But these buggers are their own worst enemies – it seems that everyone hates them! Black, white, yellow, brown – everybody.

  3. The Chinese modified their one-child policy some yrs ago. Non-Han ethnic minorities, those living in rural areas, couples who are themselves only children, etc. may have more than one child. Since all Chinese parents want a son (great happiness), many female fetuses are aborted, leading to a shortage of marriageable women, which has, in a perfect Darwinian irony, increased the value of female babies (little happiness).

  4. The Amish suffer from high birth abnormalities, but little is known because they have their own schools and don’t use public services like the rest of the country does, nor do they vote or mix much with the “English” outsiders. About 400 original families reportedly came from Switzerland. They try not to intermarry by looking for spouses in other states, but there are still lots of Amish with birth defects to see if you’re tight with their communities.
    Think about the Chinese policy of one child per family. No aunts, uncles or cousins. Thus, no problem.

  5. The history of first-cousin marriage in Europe and North America is not well understood, but what little we know is fascinating. It appears to have been fairly rare, in fact, until the mid-eighteenth century, when enforcement of incest prohibitions relaxed. From 1215 on, canon law forbade marriage within the fourth degree of consanguinity — and before that it had been seven.

    Then in the eighteenth, rates of first-cousin marriage began increase, climbing steadily upward until the mid-nineteenth, then tapering off again until the early twentieth century. This trend was discernible right across the socio-economic spectrum, too; one thinks of first-cousins Charles and Emma Darwin. What might explain this arc remains an open question. Some have argued — not very persuasively, if you ask me — that it expressed the ideology of romantic love. Others claim that it was a strategy of resource consolidation in the transition from an agrarian to an industrialized society.

  6. For centuries the Catholic Church forbade the marriage of 1st cousins, which is pretty common in small, rural communities, where options are limited.
    This prohibition was dropped during the mid-20th Century, after extensive studies showed that the incidence of birth defects in 1st-cousin marriage is only slightly higher than among non-related. It’s true that the number of birth defects multiplies if the practice is continued over several generations.
    This is not nearly as tragic as child betrothal, or girls being sold off as a means of raising capital.

  7. this is very common to most arab muslim countries not just pakistan.. I am lebanese and we had quite few neighbors, especially those who belonged to old and rich families, who marry their first cousins.. and yes there was apparent physical and mental abnormalities but who bothered with those problems when food and electricity were scarce and not being killed on the way to school was your highest priority

  8. Not that I’d do it myself, but it appears that the prohibition on first cousin marriage is largely without sound basis.

    No Western European nation bans first cousin marriage. (And since some Brits don’t like to be called part of Europe, I’ll point out that Britain doesn’t prohibit first cousin marriage either.) In fact, if Wikipedia and its source articles are accurate, the United States is the only western nation in the world that has bans in place on first cousin marriage.

    Linkage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin_marriage#United_States_2


  9. Buddha,

    If a man and woman get married in Arkansas, move to Louisiana and then decide to get divorced. Are they still brother and sister?

    This one has puzzled me for a while?

    I guess that is kinda of like having mixed emotions when your mother in law is driving your brand new Lexus and it goes over a cliff. Do you still have a right to still be mad?

  10. Albert and Victoria.

    “..a list of the 42 grandchildren of the British Queen Victoria (1819–1901, Queen from 1837, married 1840) and her husband Prince Albert (the Prince Consort, 1819–1861), each of whom was therefore either a brother, a sister, or a first cousin to each of the others. It also lists Victoria’s and Albert’s 9 children and 85 great-grandchildren.”


  11. Incredibly prevalent among medieval royals and not without adverse results.

  12. It seems like this might be a self-correcting problem if the children of first cousin marriages have such a high mortality rate. Eventually you run out of first cousins.

  13. Damn, well look at what its done for the state of Arkansas….Yippee….if you wanna see why it does not work, well, see Mike Huckabee…

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