Netherlands: Proposal to ban cousin marriages

The VVD wants to stop import marriages by forbidding marriages between Moroccans and Turkish cousins.

Salua Mansouri read the integration memo of VVD parliament member Henk Kamp with mixed feelings. "A ban on marriages between cousin is not a bad idea," says the 32 year old self-employed from Nieuwegein. She just has the feeling that the VVD only want the ban in order to have less immigrants from Morocco or Turkey.

A shame, thinks Mansouri, since such a ban would have made her life a bit easier. "As a teenager I felt enormous pressure from the family to help my cousin from Morocco get a residence permit. A full cousin, note that we had the same family name. If a ban had existed then, I could have nicely set my family in place: not possible by Dutch law, end of story."

Historically, in Northern Morocco, the Rif mountains from where most of the Moroccans had come to the Netherlands (Berbers or Riffians), people don't get married with direct relatives. They do get married with members of the same tribe. For economic reasons (land and cattle ownership), but more because families know each other's reputation and it was safer to 'give' your daughter to somebody that you could trust.

At the end of the 80s this changed and first-degree cousins married more and more often with each other in order to get a residence permit.

For Mansouri, who has meanwhile divorced, that wasn't different. She says her mother always told her that it would be better for her to help her poor cousin come to the Netherlands than a complete a stranger. By the time she was 20 she has also been convinced. For her female cousins and girlfriends it went precisely like that.

Marianne Vorthoren, project head for the Islamic umbrella organization Spior in Rotterdam, regularly sees the social pressure weighing on Moroccan girls. "We try to make women aware that coercion is forbidden within Islam and that women, with the Koran at their side, can refuse a marriage." A ban on cousin marriages, meant only for Moroccans and Turks, is according to her contrary to the principle of equality and doesn't offer a solution. "People are more aware than before of the risk of genetic defects, it also plays a role by the parents. They also don't prefer now to see their kid getting married with a cousin."

Mansouri has never thought of future handicapped children. "We had to do a blood test in a village in Morocco, but I've never heard anything more about it. Luckily my child is perfectly healthy."

The total number of import marriages has gone down by both Turks and Moroccans since the implementation of the new family reunification law in 2004. In 2001 that was 61% and 59% respectively, compared to 36% and 29% in 2006.

Mansouri: "Through these import marriages more and more "mountain goats", as I call them, come to the Netherlands. They tell girls like me that we don't act morally enough or live too emancipated. We had been thrown fifty years back in time."

Source: Trouw (Dutch)

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