55%, 3%, and 33%


In research I've published, I've made the argument that patrilineality and its associated entailments, such as patrilocal marriage, brideprice, polygyny, etc. undermine a society's quest for health, wealth, and security. Today I came across an article that spells out the harmful consequences of another entailment we wrote about--cousin marriage.

In patrilineal societies, brideprice is common, as men exchange women between families for money. To decrease this hemorrhage of cash, cousins are often married to cancel out or minimize the need to pay brideprice. It's a matter of wealth, though some will also suggest that marrying within the family should lessen the risk of domestic violence for the bride (no such evidence of this exists, and 'd argue there is little to no protection). Most of these cousins are first cousins, usually an uncle's child, though other variants are possible.

Cousin marriages are very common in Islamic countries such as in the Gulf States, and also in Pakistan. The news article I came across today is from the UK, where many Pakistanis have emigrated, where cousin marriage has been documented more fully. And what has been found is astounding in its level of tragedy:

"it is estimated that 55 per cent of Pakistani-heritage couples [in the UK] are in cousin marriages. And while British Pakistani couples are responsible for 3 per cent of births overall in the UK, they account for a third — 33 per cent — of children with genetic birth defects."

Let those figures sink in for a moment--55% in cousin marriages. Three percent of births in the country, but one third--one third!--of children with genetic birth defects!

It is simply horrifying . . . how could wealth be more important than the health of the children--or even the life of the children--produced? More:

"Official government figures for England, uncovered by the Mail in 2018, revealed cousin marriages are a key factor in an average of two child deaths every week. Distressingly, many surviving children of the couples involved have physical or mental problems. These include blindness, deafness, blood ailments such as thalassemia which can make sufferers anaemic heart or kidney failure, lung or liver ailments, and myriad complex neurological or brain disorders. Doctors working with the Born In Bradford study have in the past identified 140 different gene disorders among local children, compared with 20 to 30 you would expect to find among the general population."

And in the UK, with socialized medicine, the UK taxpayer is footing the bill for the youngsters affected in these ways. And this is not to mention the heartache and privation suffered by both family and child. This type of needless suffering should end. The UK is trying to nudge family norms away from cousin marriage, but tangible results may necessitate a change in law. The 50 US states, for example, are a patchwork quilt of law concerning cousin marriage, with some states allowing it and others strictly forbidding it.

Cousin marriage is one of the "traditions of the fathers" that has wrought more harm than good, more death than life. It's time for communities to put behind them something that brings such immense sorrow. What population would choose to pollute its genetic heritage and destroy its future in this way? It's inconceivable.