No ban on marriages between cousins
17 December 2003
AMSTERDAM — Despite a higher risk of birth defects, marriages and eventual offspring from unions between nephews and nieces will not be banned in the Netherlands.
Instead, Health Minister Hans Hoogervorst said he considered the risks of birth defects would be overshadowed by the violation of the personal freedom of choice if he banned marriages between first cousins.
Marriages between cousins are particularly common in Turkish and Moroccan communities and Hoogervorst said a ban would be “disproportionate” and impossible to enforce.
The Liberal VVD minister was responding to questions lodged by the Christian Democrat CDA, which is now preparing its response, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Thursday.
Besides the slightly higher chance of birth defects, the chance of baby mortality is three to five times higher than non-cousin marriages. The CDA is also concerned about hindered integration and forced marriages.
CDA MP Sterk also said the party’s concerns could not be easily brushed away and that it still saw sufficient reason for a ban.
But Minister Hoogervorst said marriages between cousins were deeply entrenched in Turkish and Moroccan culture.
The ban on marriages between first cousins was lifted in 1971, but a ban on marriage between brothers and sisters remains in place. It is not known how many cousin couples live in the Netherlands because there is no registration procedure.
Meanwhile, Minister Hoogervorst said nephew and niece couples stand a 5 to 7 percent chance of having a handicapped child, 1.5 times more than “normal” couples. He said the difference was not large enough to warrant a ban, representing a deep interference in personal lives.
He said good public information for first cousin couples about the risks involved was a better option. Just 35 such couples of migrant background were referred to a clinical genetics centre in 2002.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Dutch news