Cousin marriage statistics revealed for Abu Dhabi
Twenty per cent of Emiratis who had pre-marital health tests in the UAE capital last year were looking to marry their first cousin, the latest Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) figures have shown.
The numbers back up research by the Centre for Arabic Genomic Studies, which says that marriage to cousins remains popular in the UAE and Qatar, while dropping off in some other Arab countries, writes Sean O'Driscoll...
The latest figures come from HAAD’s medical screening of 2,341 people preparing for marriage. It found that 1,130 (20 per cent) of Emiratis married their first cousins, 294 (five per cent) married their second cousins and 494 (seven per cent) married distant cousins.
The cousin marriage rates were lower for expats who were about to tie the knot and underwent the tests - 8.2 per cent of them married their first cousins, 2.6 per cent married their second cousins and 2.5 per cent married a distant cousin. Overall, 32.3 per cent of Emiratis married a relative of some degree, compared to 13.3 per cent for expats.
HAAD keeps a close watch on cousin marriage rates as marrying relatives can lead to birth defects and conditions such as thalassemia. The figures for UAE cousin marriage are down compared to those reported by a Qatar paediatrics professor in 2009, who said that 50.5 per cent of UAE marriages were between cousins, and 26 per cent of those were first cousins.
An expert at a conference in Doha this summer estimated the general birth defect rate for those marrying outside the family is about two to three per cent and this rises to four to seven per cent for cousins and 10 per cent or more for repeated relative marriage though different generations.
Earlier this year at the Doha Debates, held at Georgetown University in Qatar’s capital, 81 per cent of the 350-strong audience voted to support the motion “This house believes marriage between close family members should be discouraged, while 19 per cent opposed it.
A female Emirati student in the audience said cousin marriage is a common practice among UAE nationals and discouraging it could limit the wedding prospects of Emirati women.
“They (Emirati men) have more options. Emirati women want to marry Emirati men so that their kids will be Emirati but men can marry non-Emiratis and their kids will still be Emirati. It [the motion] may make it harder for Emirati women to marry.”