As the world goes on, traditions have gradually been replaced by civilisation. People now look for reasons to support or refute the claims made by our traditional ancestors passed down to us through oral traditions and cultural education. However, issues that have to do with marriage and superstitions constantly present new questions, answers to which may not be satisfactory to people who asked them. One of these questions is that of marrying a cousin. Can cousins marry each other?
Marriage between cousins or siblings is referred to as consanguineous marriage. And of course, I'm sure you know who cousins are, don't you?
People fall in love for different reasons. Sometimes, you just don't predict who you eventually fall in love with. Prior to that, you find people who give a list of specifications they want in their spouse, tall, handsome, beautiful, dark and so on. But eventually, you end up with someone you never thought of. This could happen too, that you end up falling in love with your cousin, sometimes without even knowing.
Religiously, different sides have also been established. Whereas some form of Hinduism, Catholicism strictly prohibit cousin marriage, others like Protestanism, Islam and Judaism support cousin marriage even between first cousins.
In Africa, cousin marriage is only allowed when the cousin relationship has become considerably distant. For example, immediate siblings and first or second cousins may not be allowed to marry, but distant cousins could. In the African setting, they have linked the cousin marriage to superstition and semi-religion, such that they believe that curses would be incurred if two cousins marry each other. To provide a solution to this, traditional rites would be performed to supposedly lift the curses before the cousin couple will be allowed to marry. No other constitutional laws exist against cousin marriages.
What are these consequences, as a matter of fact? I don't know if I have talked too much already before hitting those consequences and many more, but I am certain this information will add value to your understanding of cousin marriage, consanguineous marriage and incest in these settings.
The major reasons why cousin marriage was encouraged in some societies included the preservation of cultural values, family wealth, maintain physical closeness between all relatives, strengthen family ties and structure and building a stronger relationship between a wife and her inlaws, since they are, as a matter of fact, relatives even before the marriage.
Some notable people exploited this freedom in their own marriages as well. These include the following:
- Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma - (first cousins)
- Saddam Hussein and Sajida Talfah - (first cousins)
- Albert Einstein and Elsa Lowenthal - (first cousins on mother's side and second cousins on father's side)
- Franklin D Roosevelt and Eleanor
- Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton - (third cousins)
What benefits could marrying a cousin offer?
Some Benefits of Marrying a Cousin
If there were no benefits, most cultures and people groups that permitted it through centuries wouldn't have done so. There were some derived benefits in cousin marriages, and let me list a few of them for you.
- Stronger family ties to realise that you are doubly related to your spouse.
- Strengthening of the inheritance pool until a stable uniform gene pool is achieved.
- Maybe, sustaining of 'royal blood' in cases of royalties and monarchy.
- Children born between cousins have been scientifically noted to have a slightly lower birth weight, thus preventing too big babies and its complications.
- As cultures and religion are likely similar, couple easily adapt to their new life together without so much stress.
- Due to the recirculation of pure genes, newborns from a cousin/consanguineous marriage have been observed to have more thriving potential, in terms of growth.
I did get so much advantages of cousin marriage, didn't I? These may be good enough reasons for you to move ahead, especially if you are here because you are in love with someone you later found to be your cousin, be it close or distant cousin.
But before, you exit this page and lay with him/her on bed to produce children that have a better growth potential, why don't you consider some cons to cousin/consanguineous marriage first?
Dangers of Marrying a Cousin
- Increased risks of genetic diseases.
- Lack of social unity with other tribes.
- Poor political relationships.
- Increased risk for developing mood disorders.
Increased Risks of Genetic Diseases
Genes always come in two pairs known as alleles. One or both pairs of any given gene can have the defective copy. If the defect is on only one copy of the gene, it is referred to as heterozygous, but if both of the gene pairs have the defect, this is referred to as homozygous.
Many genetic diseases naturally require that two copies of the gene be defective(homozygous) before the disease is manifested in the individual. In which case, if only one of the gene pair has the defective change, the individual will be said to be a carrier but will not manifest any symptoms of overt disease. This can be exemplified by the SS (Sickle cell anaemia) genetic condition, that requires that both defective S haemoglobin must be present before the disease is manifested in the individual. People who have AS combinations are said to be carriers and do not come down with any symptoms of the disease.
When cousins marry each other, there are increased chances that a homozygous pair of the defective genes for a genetic disease will be obtained. The two sides of the union may have already gotten one copy of the defective gene individually, and when they come together to marry, there are high chances that one or most of their children would take the defective genes from both sides to make two copies, and the disease would manifest.
This is different from certain genetic diseases that need only one defective copy for them to manifest as disease. Other examples of these diseases that require two copies of the defective gene are Tay-Sachs disease(common in Ashkenazi Jews), cystic fibrosis, etc.
Lack of Social Unity With Other Tribes
If we all stick to marrying ourselves, from our own tribe, we may be limiting how much better we can bond with other people out there. We get a form of social restriction, that's is what it is. This marriage restriction is what has always been and we can readily see the reasons why this has been so. Due to issues relating to security, cultural differences, language differences, food preferences, marrying far too outside the immediate community and state/country have been rather frowned upon. But looking critically inwards, marriage is still our one chance to restore global peace, even among those people you never though would ever relate well together.
Poor Political Relationships
The laws are stringent but they sometimes allow marriage between royals and commoners. Otherwise, who knows if Prince Harry would have been allowed to marry Meghan Markle? But that's just by the way.
Just like the social unity I talked about above, this kind of rules, especially if held more stringently, can cause some form of political restrictions. If only princes of Britain were, for instance, allowed to marry the princesses and vice-versa, with time, they would have all become cousins marrying themselves. And if there is no form of political diversity in marriage, such that, they are not allowed to marry from other kingdoms of the world, it would be a missed opportunity to gain more political influence.
King Solomon of the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah, was said to have had so great influence, fame and wealth because he married princesses from many other nations of the world at that time. Let me just end this chapter by asking this question, do you go to war with a nation for whom your daughter is a Queen? No you, don't. That's some form of peace right there.
It therefore stands to reason that simple distance, alone, is enough to make two cousins compatible for marriage. However, some of those genetic factors we talked about are not removed by distance just as simple as that. So, biologic reasons that involve a high risk of acquiring certain genetic diseases must be considered seriously before deciding to marry your cousin.
The Caveat: We Are Already Cousins
Genetic studies have shown that over 95% of genes are identical across all cultures and races of human. That means we have a lot in common already. Where did that commonality come from? Was it just a mere coincidence? Maybe it is, maybe it's not. But let's assume for a moment.
In this case, the point of discussion shifts from why or why you should not marry your cousin, to how distant your cousin relationship with someone should be before you go all out to marry them.
Chimpanzees are sometimes called our distant cousins, but those are obviously too distant to consummate marriage with, hm? Quite funny but at this point, I want you to never forget something; - Consanguineous marriage have some benefits, can be unavoidable sometimes and it also have some disadvantages. But before you decide, can you take a moment to weight the risk-benefit ratio?
Thanks for reading. I await your responses below.