Baroness Deech, who is a member of the House of Lords and a professor, has called for greater awareness about the impact of first cousin marriages on children of said unions:
Fifty-five per cent of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins and in Bradford the figure is 75 per cent. British Pakistanis represent 3 per cent of all births in Britain but one third of children with recessive disorders.
Lady Deech calls for measures short of a ban to prevent the genetic problems arising from cousin marriage.
She says: â€œThere is no reason, one could argue, why there should not be a campaign to highlight the risks and the preventative measures, every bit as vigorous as those centring on smoking, obesity and Aids.â€ While there was reluctance to â€œtarget or upset Muslims over cousin-marriage issuesâ€ the practice was not mandated by religion, only permitted, so it is not at heart a religious issue, she argues.
A campaign of education needs to start in schools so they understand about genetics and what it means to carry a mutant gene.
The Baroness’ suggestions seem sensible, though I am not sure about her plan to test genetic defects in those who have arranged marriages. It makes sense, but how would you differentiate between arranged and love marriages?
The problem is that, like in Europe a few centuries ago, first marriages are still an attractive prospect for families: they help to solidify alliances and keep property within a family. This is an issue that needs to be discussed a great deal more.
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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence,Culture,Disability