Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More on Consanguineous Marriage and Parenting

Hank Pellissier asked if cousins should be denied their right to marry. The answer, of course, is... no! Pellissier, however, wants to strongly discourage cousins from having children together. Still, his article does contain some interesting information.
Six Legs? A baby boy - Umar Farooq - was born with six legs in April, 2012, in southeastern Pakistan.  International press noted that the boy’s parents were cousins, a common occurrence in Pakistan, where 70% of the marriage are “consanguineous.” Was the deformity caused by genetically-similar commingling?
Probably not. Polymelia (a rare genetic disease) was suspected at first, but eventually the extra limbs were blamed on an undeveloped “conjoined (Siamese) twin.”  The reasons for conjoining are unknown.
Eyebrows were already raised around the world, though. Tongues wagged, netizens clucked.

People love to talk out of ignorance.

A recent book, Consanguinity in Context, by Alan H. Bittles, a medical geneticist at Murdoch University and the Centre for Comparative Genomes in Australia, has dismissed the hazard potential as inconsequential. Bittles claims the rate only elevates from 2-3% to 4-6% if parents are first cousins. A Saudi Arabian report also claims an elevation rise from merely 1.7 to 2.8%, and the London-based Human Genetics Commission claims the risk “rises to about six in every 100 births, i.e. double the risk.” 

"Double" is a "100% increase" and that sounds scary until you realize that the stats mean 94 out of a hundred children conceived by cousin couples will have no problem.
Ethiopia appears the most prohibitive: it bans marriage between relatives out to 6th cousins. South Korea bans out to 3rd cousins; Taiwan and The Philippines ban first cousins, as does China, ever since it’s 1981 Marriage Act. In the USA, 31 of the 50 states ban first cousin marriage. In Europe and South America, consanguinity generally isn’t banned, but it is rarely practiced. Europe’s rate is generally less than 1%, and Brazil’s is presently 1.1%.

Ethiopia has more important things to worry about than whether distant cousins have the hots for each other.
Robin Fox of Rutgers ventures that, throughout history, approximately 80% of all marriages have been to first or second cousins. In the West, Charles Darwin married his cousin (Emma), so did Edgar Allan Poe (Virgina), Albert Einstein (Elsa), Queen Victoria (Albert), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Eleanor), and H. G. Wells (Maria).
Cousin couples are part of an impressive legacy. I support relationship right and reproductive rights, and cousins should not be denied their right to marry or their reproductive rights.
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1 comment:

  1. The book mentioned in this entry, Consanguinity in Context by Alan H Bittles, looks like it might be a good read. I'll admit that I'm very curious to see what information he presents and what conclusions he draws. To the point where I'm strongly considering dropping the $100+ they're asking for it. Thank you for posting this.


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