What if two cousins sleep together, have a baby and then want to get married.
Is that allowed? What about this situation: a young Moroccan Dutch man
marries his female cousin in Morocco and then brings her to the Netherlands.
Is that permitted? Or rather: will that still be permitted in future?
According to Ashley Terlouw, professor of sociology of law at Radboud
University in Nijmegen, it is doubtful whether such cases can be prohibited.
Aside from the question of whether it is a good idea.
“Everyone's right to a family life is protected in section 8 of the European
Convention on Human Rights. If the Netherlands does not respect that, the
Court in Strasbourg will have something to say about it.”
Experts have responded with surprise – and some with shock – to the plan that
Deputy Minister for Justice Nebahat Albayrak announced last week to ban
marriages between cousins. It is one of the measures aimed at reducing the
number of so-called import brides (and grooms).
Increase in import marriages
Detailed information on the ban and its enforcement is expected in a few
weeks, but it is already clear that the ban will apply to everyone, not just
ethnic minorities among whom most marriages between cousins take place. The
ban will not be imposed with retroactive effect.
“It does not seem right to me to apply family law to migration policy,” said
Terlouw. “Moreover it is a measure that affects more people than you want it
to.” Nor will the ban necessarily bring about any decline in marriage
migration. "The Netherlands cannot ban marriages in other countries and will
have to recognise most cases. Added to this is the fact that it is certainly
not the case that all foreign marriages are between cousins."
A driving force behind the measure is the increase in the number of Dutch
residents who 'import' a spouse from the country of their parents.
After years of decline, the number went up last year by thirty percent to
15,000. But the municipal records do not keep track of how many of these
marriages involved cousins marrying each other.
According to researchers from Leiden University, a quarter of Turks and
Moroccans marry a relative. A European survey, which only looked at
second-generation immigrants, indicated that just over eight percent of
Turks and six percent of Moroccans reported they were married to a cousin.
Does Albayrak have her facts straight?
Albayrak said last week that marriage between cousins was prohibited in
the past, but that is a stubborn misconception said Frans van Poppel of the
Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute. Only since 1970 has the
law permitted an uncle or aunt to marry their nephew or niece, but there has
never been a ban on marriage between cousins, according to Van Poppel.
It seems as if Albayrak does not yet have all her facts straight, said Han
Entzinger, professor of integration and migration studies at Erasmus
University in Rotterdam.
“I see that Moroccans and Turks are in fact bringing partners from abroad less
frequently.” That is also due to the income requirement that the Netherlands
has introduced. The partner here must now earn at least 120 percent of the
minimum wage before he can bring a partner from abroad.
“Which incidentally has an adverse effect in that many young people stopped
their college education to try and earn as much money as possible,” said
Proponents of a ban on marriage between cousins stress that they hope this ban
will put a stop to forced marriages. Entzinger has serious doubts whether
this goal will be achieved. He responds with questions: "What is defined as
a forced marriage? Is an arranged marriage also forced? How many forced
marriages actually take place? And how would such a ban be enforced?”
Health risks not significant
It seems as if politicians are seeking a new way to ban marriage between
cousins. From 2003 there have been efforts to introduce the ban on grounds
of health risks. This has failed time and again. Last year health minister
Ab Klink decided that a ban would be disproportionate. Research has shown
that parents who are related, including cousins, have a four percent chance
of a child with a genetic defect. That risk is two percent for parents who
are not related.
If politicians are really concerned about stopping forced marriages and
preventing health risks, Albayrak should instead concentrate on better
information provision, said the researchers. And on a harsh approach to
those who impose forced marriages.