Did you know that Albert Einstein was incest? In fact, Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin both were married to their first cousins. Back then cousin marriages were highly disapproved in most societies. It is still very common for almost all societies to prohibit sexual relationships between certain culturally specified relationships, referred to the word taboo, meaning forbidden. Not only the word ‘incest’ is used as slang in many societies, but also at some places being incest is still punishable by state. A first cousin marriage is punishable by imprisonment for years in few states of United States (National District Attorneys Association, 2013), whereas it is a common culture in Muslim society such as highly practiced in Pakistan. On the other hand, incestuous relation between step-siblings is acceptable in Unites States but is seen with disgrace in Pakistan. These controversial norms of societies question whether or not incestuous relationships should be allowed. However, due to several reasons I think incestuous relationships should be acceptable till some extend.
Firstly, incestuous relationships ensure that patrimony will stay within the family. The ancient reason for marriage was to procreate and pass on their inheritance to offspring. This maintained family prestige and power. Johnson, H.M. (2006) in his book, A Systematic Introduction, wrote about kinship system, where the rule of descent automatically gives the rights of inheritance after death, established by marriage to children by birth orders. Now if the marriage is held within the family, for instance in-between cousins, half-siblings, or with parent’s cousin etc, it will keep the patrimony within the family. Jain R(2012), mentioned in his book that some societies practice parallel cousin marriage between children of two brothers just to keep the property and inheritance preserved safely within the family line.
Secondly, marring in the same family, the spouse will already be aware of that family culture. In usual cases the bride needs to work hard to create a good place in in-law’s heart. She needs to adapt to new rules and norms. T. Apter(2009) in her book ‘what do you want from me?’, mentioned the usually dilemma women face while impressing in-laws. If the bride is from the same family, incestuous, the newlywed does not need to adjust to new family norms, culture or rule, they will already be aware of them.
One changing phenomenon is the rising number of divorce. It is more socially acceptable than it was few decades ago. More detached from family, the more liberal and drastic decisions couples take towards divorce. According to Dr. William Cornell’s study, a Marriage and Counselor professor at the University of Florida, the divorce rates in countries with arranged marriages are way lower than divorce rates in countries with love marriages. Perhaps one of the reasons is the family support and help during couple’s obstacles. Comparing the above finding, when cousins or relatives are bond in marriage, most likely the family will support them either because they arranged the marriage or because both the husband and wife are part of one family. This reduces the couple’s rate of divorce.
Incestuous relationship has one disadvantage of children born from first cousins or close relatives, face health risks. According to Charlie Cooper(2013), a study in Pakistan says, the children born from parents being first cousins have potential life threatening birth defects. However, his article also mentioned this result in only a 6% chance for those children compared with a 3% chance for the entire population. He also mentioned the child by first cousins is the same risk as women getting pregnant at her forties, hence why not restrict that too. His study shows not only there is a little risk but also birth defect is an excuse for some societies not to accept incest relationships. To conclude with, I think the above evidence and reasons are enough to accept incestuous relationships till some extend.
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