Cousin Marriage: A Cause for Concern?

Progress Educational Trust
Clifford Chance, 10 Upper Bank Street, London E14 5JJ
29 May 2008

An evening debate organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET), supported by Clifford Chance and the Wellcome Trust.

Over a billion people worldwide live in regions where 20-50% of marriages are consanguineous, and first-cousin unions are especially popular. Discussion of this phenomenon is confused by the fact that its causes are social and economic, while its outcomes tend to be measured in terms of child health. International variations in infant mortality, and varying genetic factors within given communities, make it difficult to attribute health problems to cousin marriages with any degree of accuracy. But this hasn't prevented government minister Phil Woolas from arguing that cousin marriages among immigrants are contributing to a surge of birth defects in the UK.

Is cousin marriage a legitimate cause for concern? If not, then why does it attract so much attention? If so, then what should be done about it?




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