In many parts of the world, a union between cousins and even uncles and nieces are seen as favourable, because it means the family remains intact.
Marriages between second cousins or closer relatives even in Australia are thought to make up around 0.2 per cent of all unions, involving almost 50,000 people.
“In deprived rural areas, it’s a strong family tradition,” Professor Alan Bittles from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia told news.com.au. “It can mean a socio-economic advantage.
“It’s also common in parts of the world where there’s terrorist activity or civil insurrection, like northwest Pakistan, where 40 to 50 per cent might marry a cousin.
“You’ve got little or no control from the government, and there’s this idea that ‘blood is thicker than water’ — you can rely on your family more than even your neighbours. It’s a self-protecting mechanism.”
Many families value knowing their new social circle and the medical history of those entering the bloodline.
Marrying a relative, or “consanguinity”, is particularly common among migrant communities in Australia.
Prof Bittles, who works at the Centre for Human Genetics explains. “In Australia, it’s second or third generation migrants from countries with strong traditions, like the Middle East.”
Italian-Australian actor Greta Scacchi caused outrage even among her own family when she had a child with her cousin, Carlo Mantegazza. Several of her relatives declared it unacceptable and against the Catholic Church.
But despite the horrified rhetoric around marrying a relative, there has been no move in Australia to ban it. The country operates under laws taken from 15th century England, when Henry VIII declared it legal.
“Until the mid-19th century, it was quite valued,” added the professor. “It was seen as favourable for a girl to marry into a branch of the same family, not an alien one.”
But now family size is shrinking, the pool for possible marriages to relatives of a similar age is getting smaller. Women staying in school for longer and delaying marriage also makes it less likely, he explained.
Prof Bittles says he was “taken aback” when he first encountered marriages between uncles and nieces in the 1970s on a visit to India, but his tests on genetic defects showed only a negligibly detrimental effect. “It’s hard for us to come to terms with,” he said. “It’s a touchy subject, but one people find inherently fascinating.”
news.com.au 30 May 2015
Wondering why there are so many mentally retarded people around?
The 'Royals' have figured this out a little while ago, hence the new blood of Diana, Mary, etc.
The rules of marriage are found in Leviticus 18:6-18.
Also see article: