Marrying Your Cousin..and other interesting things

Hah! That topic got you didn’t it? It’s just that I was trying to explain how it’s not a strange thing – marrying your cousin – to some of my friends yesterday. They were talking about a colleague who had gone back on vacation and came back married and when asked how he knew his wife, he said “She’s my cousin”..and these goras (white guys) got taken aback.

I tried to explain to them that it’s actually something that is still quite common in India, Pakistan, etc. from what I know at least – and it’s not really all that weird.

There are rules though – this type of a link can only be created with your Mother’s Brother’s child, or Father’s Sister’s child. You can’t marry your Mother’s Sister’s child and Father’s Brother’s child – that is not accepted.

So why didn’t *I* marry my cousin? Simple, he’s 5 years younger to me and we were brought up as siblings. If parents want their children to marry their cousin, it’s a decision they make when the kids are small (kind of like arranged marriage) and these kids grow up with that fascination for each other. There are also situations where the parents want their child to marry their cousin but the child prefers somebody else. It happens.

But imagine marrying your childhood sweetheart – it’s very similar to that.

I’m not going to comment if this is right or wrong because it’s culture – it differs for many people. I have relatives who have married their cousins and they make wonderful couples – and their children are normal as well. My former neighbour who was Chinese, she married her own cousin too but I’m not sure if this tradition is common among the Chinese.

Indian culture has it’s quirks – but it has come a long way and evolved a lot. It’s really interesting – this culture clash and sometimes all it takes is explaining it. Trust me, my first reaction was to be a bit offended, but after explaining it to my friends, I stopped feeling offended.

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15 responses

    • You know, I don’t know the exact reason – but I do know that we call the mother’s brother (or father’s sister’s husband) the same term – Maama. Similarly, the mother’s sister (or father’s brother’s wife) we also use the same term – Chitti. I have a feeling it is related to this. It’s a shame my grandmother has passed away, otherwise I would have asked her :) Indian people who live in Malaysia – we are like 5th or 6th generation (my grandfathers were both born and bred in India, then they moved in the 1930s or 40s to Malaysia, I think – my grandmothers were both born in Malaysia) so a lot of this culture is practiced differently. Nobody in my immediate family will actually marry our cousin. The idea is a bit too far fetched :)

  1. One of my friends’ parents are cousins as well, but I think this rule is not that widespread in North Indian cultures (in fact, its kind of looked down upon). Cousin marriages are now more prominent in Pakistan and Pakistani diaspora. Personally, I feel cousin marriages should NOT be done, simply because the offspring has more chances of having birth defects. Hey, its simple, even nature doesn’t like it. I mean, I definitely don’t judge anyone who has a cousin as his/her spouse, but my personal opinion is that its wrong. Because growing up, you’ll have no sense of security. I think of my cousins as brothers and sisters, it just messes up what I think of family, in general.

    • I’m not a big fan of it – my cousins and I joke about it a lot. I guess it helps that we are a diaspora (we live outside of India) so we can have a very different outlook on it. I think it’s way more interesting to find a partner outside of your extended family :)

  2. Yes, I’d like to know the reason behind the rules as well, I find this interesting. :) I myself have been raised as a Norwegian, with Norwegian language, culture and don’t know too much about my heritage (being half Tamil). :(

    • Hm, you know I think the idea behind it was to keep the wealth in the family or keep the lineage pure (as in caste system). Another reason could have been that you know your cousin better than you would know somebody from the outside world…though honestly I think getting to know somebody for a partner is not the same as getting to know your cousin. It’s worlds apart. But that’s just me :)

  3. one of the reasons why it is not advisable to marry your relatives: hereditary disease/ defect in the offsprings (such as deafness) because the abnormal genes tend to “show up” when pair up with another similar pool of genes.

    that’s from medical point of view. but i guess some religions do forbid marriage among cousin like islam as well. though i am not sure about others. :)

    • True, but there are a lot of cases where people who are not related have kids who are albino so I don’t think it is very black and white. I’m not encouraging it, definitely not. Just wanted to write about how the culture can be perceived so differently in a land far, far away from Asia.

  4. Whoa! You really did get my attention with that.

    I’ve tried really hard not to be ethnocentric when thinking about incestuous marriages, but it never works. Perhaps because of the taboo associated with it in most cultures (and even animals) and plain ol’ genetics.

    I think it’s an outdated practice which needs to be outlawed, especially if people are being forced into it. It was pretty common back in the day for women to get forced into these marriages in order to keep land and other property in the family. While I understand many women get into these marriages willingly, it’s hard to ignore the ones that don’t.

    I know this is harsh coming from someone with a pro-life, pro-gay marriage stance, but just the thought of this draws a visceral reaction from me. It’s a practice I just can’t condone.

      • I can’t condone it either as it is a very strange practice – one that is shown in Indian movies all the time – guy and girl in small cute village are actually cousins. Interestingly, most of my street knowledge is gained from books and movies :) Are people really forced into it? I don’t know anybody personally who was forced into it. That’s definitely sad though, I hope it doesn’t happen anymore.

  5. Pingback: 2010 in Review – Thank You For Reading My Blog « Across the Oceans

  6. Sharing about this, i would like to say something out of my opinion…maybe while growing up u will not have the feelings for your cousins as u treat them like brothers and sisters…but wat i am going through is far more complicated…i only knew him(my boyfriend) when i was 18…as my cousin and it all just happened that we are together till now…so i just cant accept the fact that he is my cousin and its just too difficult because i am very comfortable with him and the compatibility is there i would say…and my parents loved him…but now things got worst and my parents are not really agreeing after knowing our relationship the reason being because he is my Perima’s son@ my mother’s sister’s son… but i really think he is the one for me..and i just love him so much that i cant decide….so any idea how to over come this…i really need help here… :-(

  7. Thank you so much for your sweet and encouraging reply…really appreciate it…please pray for me for things to work out…..thank you again….

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