Why is cousin marriage declining in Bradford’s Pakistani community?

Symbolic image of a couple holding hands.  - Unsplash
Symbolic image of a couple holding hands. – Unsplash

Despite the significant health risks, cousin marriages – whether within the country or abroad – are still prevalent in the Pakistani community. However, the number of such unions is much smaller than it was a decade or two ago.

a report of BBC The incidence of cousin marriages in Bradford’s Pakistani community was said to have “declined rapidly” over the past 10 years.

A study titled ‘Born in Bradford’ cited by the publication for overview suggests higher educational attainment, new family dynamics and changes in immigration rules as possible reasons for the decline in cousin marriage.

Bradford resident Juwairiya Ahmed, while speaking to her children, revealed how she met their father, who was their cousin.

“I was laughing at them. I said I never really met him. My parents took me to Pakistan and my father said you’re going to marry this person. And I knew who he was , but the first time I met him properly was at the wedding,” BBC The 52-year-old teacher quoted.

She said, “My kids said it was disgusting. And then they told me, ‘Don’t you dare make us do something like that.'”

A ten-year-old study found that 60% of infants in the Pakistani community had parents who were first or second cousins, while a more recent follow-up study found this dropped to 46%.

According to Neil Small, professor of health research, who is part of Born in Bradford, a number of possible reasons for the decline in cousin marriage are being analyzed in consultation with the community.

Among those explanations are:

  • Awareness of the risk of congenital anomalies has increased
  • Long stay in education is affecting youth’s choices
  • Changes in family dynamics are changing conversations about marriage between parents and children
  • Changes in immigration rules have made it difficult for spouses to move to Britain

To support the last possible explanation, Bradford-born Ayesha said that her Pakistani husband could not move to the UK until three years after their marriage and by which time their child was two years old.

In addition, Ayesha had to work long hours to reach the salary threshold introduced in 2012 for anyone wishing to bring a spouse from outside Europe to live in the country.

“I don’t think my children will marry cousins. They will lose their connection with Pakistan and I am sad about that,” he said.

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