The number of people in Bradford's Pakistani community who have married a cousin has fallen sharply in the past 10 years, a study suggests. Higher educational attainment, new family dynamics and changes in immigration rules are thought to be possible reasons.
Juwayriya Ahmed married her cousin in 1988. The 52-year-old teacher says her children once asked her how she and their father met.
"I was laughing at them. I said I didn't really meet him. My parents took me to Pakistan and my dad said you're going to marry this person. And I sort of knew who he was, but the first time I met him properly was at the wedding," she says.
"My kids said that was disgusting. And then they told me, 'Don't you dare make us do anything like this.'"
Ten years ago researchers studying the health of more than 30,000 people in Bradford found that about 60% of babies in the Pakistani community had parents who were first or second cousins, but a new follow-up study of mothers in three inner-city wards finds the figure has dropped to 46%.
The original research also demonstrated that cousin marriage roughly doubled the risk of birth defects, though they remained rare, affecting 6% of children born to cousins.
Hooray but it doesn't seem that steep a drop. And how much is that attributable to firmer immigration rules tan any huge cultural shift within the diaspora or community?
Cousin marriage is widespread in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where many Bradford families originate.
Sometimes a young person in Bradford is married to a cousin in Pakistan, who then comes to live in the UK. But members of the community say there have been inter-generational tensions over this tradition, with some young people firmly rejecting the idea of arranged marriage - and cousin marriage in particular.
"Our generation really fought for it," says one young woman.
"Ten years ago my mum was adamant we would all have cousin marriages but now she doesn't focus on that. I think families realised they couldn't control it. They knew that being in Britain, and being exposed to so many different viewpoints, it is going to change."
All good and yet in other quarters some lamentation:
One person affected by new immigration rules was Bradford-born Ayesha, who married her first cousin in Pakistan eight years ago and gave birth to their first child the following year.
Her husband was unable to move to the UK until the baby was two. Meanwhile Ayesha had to work long hours as a home care worker to reach a salary threshold introduced in 2012 for anyone wanting to bring a spouse from outside Europe to live in the country.
She thinks cousin marriage is a valuable tradition though, and regrets that it appears to be in decline.
"I don't think my children will marry cousins. They will lose that connection with Pakistan and I feel sad about that," she says.
First time I looked at this piece from the BBC there was a gentleman quoted to be seen as enthusiastic about the notion of cousin marriages but it's been removed.
The Born in Bradford team has made efforts to explain to the community how congenital anomalies come about.
They occur when both parents carry a particular defective gene, which may happen when the parents are unrelated, but is more likely when they are cousins. Anomalies can affect the heart, the nervous system, limbs, the skin or other parts of the body. They are sometimes untreatable and can be fatal.
Dr Aamra Darr, a medical sociologist with the University of Bradford's Faculty of Health Studies, says cousin marriage is a risk factor, but not a cause of congenital anomalies.
She points out that the 2013 Born in Bradford study showed that the risk of married cousins having a baby with a congenital anomaly was similar to that of a white British woman aged 35 or over having a baby with an anomaly, including Down's Syndrome.
However, she says health workers have sometimes told parents of a sick child in the Pakistani community: "It's because you married your cousin."
"It's culture blaming," she says. "You're talking about the politics of race and health - the minority being judged by the majority population."
Hmm... Yet the stereotype/caricature of the cousin humping redneck from yeehawland has been around for a long time. And very few people romanticise European royal inbreeding.https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-67422918