Pakistanis have been marrying cousins for generations.In South Asia the custom keeps family networks close and ensures assets remain in the family.In Britain, the aim can be to strengthen bonds with the subcontinent as cousins from abroad marry British partners.Some told us they face extreme pressure to marry in this way.But today in Britain alone there are more than 70 scientific studies on the subject.We know the children of first cousins are ten times more likely to be born with recessive genetic disorders which can include infant mortality, deafness and blindness.
The identifier system would be completely voluntary.
Throughout I had to remind myself that this is a health story – nothing more. It is about avoidable suffering such at that experienced by Saeeda and Jalil Akhtar, whom I met in Bradford.
They are first cousins and have six children, three with the genetic disease mucolipidosis type IV.
One young woman, ‘Zara’, said when she was 16 she was emotionally blackmailed by her husband’s family in Pakistan who threatened suicide over loss of honour should she refuse to marry her cousin.
She relented and lives in a deeply unhappy marriage.