Can gay first cousins legally marry
Javed Tahir's life kind of goes on and on. Even if the pace of every single movement slows down. Javed Tahir has been in a wheelchair for some time. His pelvic muscles are weak. His legs have not supported him for a long time. Tahir's arms are no longer as strong as they used to be. The Pakistani has suffered from muscular dystrophy, a disease that causes mutations in the genetic make-up, since he was born. The muscles of those affected become weaker and weaker over the years. At some point they can be completely paralyzed.
In Javed Tahir's family, everyone suffers from muscular dystrophy. His parents, his great-grandparents, they were and are all concerned. Tahir's wife Humaira also recently developed the disease, a disease which, with an average frequency of ten people per 100,000 inhabitants, is actually considered rare. Tahir and Humaira are first cousins. According to Pakistani tradition, Tahir's parents also decided to marry within the immediate family. Likewise their parents.
The whole family sits on beds covered with brightly colored sheets inside a barren, little mud house. It is a bit away from the center of Islamabad. "I was determined to be the first to get married outside of the family," says Tahir. He wanted to lead a different life than his parents, says the 43-year-old. He suspected that something was wrong with his family. Tahir did not find a wife outside of her own family. He looked for ten years, ten years. Ultimately, who was already affected by the disease, only took him to his own cousin. And so fate took its course again.
One billion people worldwide live in countries where relatives marry is common. Of that billion, one in three is married to, or the offspring of, a second cousin or close relative. There are countries in the Near and Middle East or North Africa in which this so-called consanguinity is culturally preferred by parents. Emigrants from these areas who now live in North America, Europe or Australia often still follow this tradition. While in most countries in the Middle East or North Africa between 20 and 50 percent of marriages between close blood relatives are concluded, in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan an average of 56 percent marry their first cousin or first cousin. "In rural regions it is as much as 80 percent," says Dr. Hafeez-ur-Rehman, anthropologist at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.
The reasons are similar in all countries with this tradition, reports the long-time researcher: marrying within the closest family guarantees a partner with a similar socio-economic status. One is familiar with the family and the customs of the other. Often there is already a good relationship with the in-laws. Divorce rates are also lower. "In our culture, love marriages are still not welcome. Even if younger, more educated people are increasingly choosing it," says the anthropologist. According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, the likelihood of a love marriage increases with a woman's level of education. The more illiterate she is, the more likely she is to marry a close relative. Only 36 percent of all women and 46 percent of all men in Pakistan attend secondary school. Education remains an exception, especially for girls.
The fatal aspect of this tradition is the genetic risks associated with a marriage between a first or second cousin: if the genetic defect rate in an unrelated couple is between two and three percent, it is in a marriage between a first cousin and cousin twice as much, says Salman Kirmani, professor of pediatrics at Aga Khan University in Karachi. Kirmani is one of the few doctors in his country who specialize in genetics. The doctor was able to deepen his knowledge at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. "However, if both parents are proven carriers of a genetic defect, there is a 25 percent chance that your child will also be affected," he says. So if a family like Javed Tahir's can look back on several generations of related marriages with disabilities within the family, the risk of genetic defects for the offspring increases dramatically.
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