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Faulty genes: consanguinity in the Pakistani community

Nasreen Ali (Based at the Institute for Health Research, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, UK)
Carl Mclean (Based at ICM Research, London, UK)
Hamid Rehman (Based at ETHNOS Research and Consultancy, London, UK)

Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1757-0980

Article publication date: 15 June 2012




This paper seeks to discuss the attitudes and beliefs of the Pakistani/Kashmiri community in Birmingham towards the cultural practice of consanguineous (cousin) marriage and health, and how an understanding of Pakistani/Kashmiri community views may help institute good practice for health care professionals.


A qualitative research study using eight gender‐ and age‐specific focus group discussions and eight in‐depth one‐to‐one interviews with participants who were in consanguineous relationships. All participants were from the Pakistani/Kashmiri community and residents of Springfield ward in Birmingham.


The findings illustrate Pakistani/Kashmiri attitudes towards consanguinity and health. There was awareness of still births and genetic conditions but a poor understanding of genetics; respondents were reluctant to accept the link between cousin marriages and birth issues and explanations for still births and impairments were largely attributed to the “will of God”. Female respondents were in favour of screening for genetic conditions but would not terminate pregnancies as this was contrary to Islamic ideas about pre‐destiny and all respondents wanted more medical and Islamic scholarly information on cousin marriage and how it is linked to disabilities. Clearly there is a need to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce infant mortality in the Pakistani/Kashmiri community.

Research limitations/implications

Research findings correspond with previous studies that have explored ethnic minority knowledge and attitudes to health and healthcare services and the need for culturally competent services.


This paper presents some suggestions on effecting behaviour change in this important area.



Ali, N., Mclean, C. and Rehman, H. (2012), "Faulty genes: consanguinity in the Pakistani community", Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 43-51.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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