The Oslo police have triggered a hot debate by advocating a ban on cousin marriage as part of efforts to battle honour-related violence and adverse social control.
"Such a ban will be of great importance to families, and will be an effective means of preventing and combating crime associated with negative social control, forced marriage, honour-related violence, and ill-treatment in close relationships”, the Oslo police said in a report quoted by national broadcaster NRK.
Many nations across the globe have a tradition of arranged marriages. This tradition follows immigrants to Norway, and some of these marriages are arranged between cousins. The migration motive can be central, the police stressed.
"When marriages are made across national borders, the migration motive can be central. Given the prevalence of this practice, it is likely to assume a strong expectation of marrying within the family. Therefore, this is a relevant issue related to the topic of negative social control", the police said.
This phenomenon can put young people under pressure to marry someone from their parents' homeland and even put them at risk of abuse.
According to police experience, the problem related to cousin marriage is "central to many criminal cases of mistreatment in close relationships, honour-related violence, and even honour killings".
Figures from the Institute of Public Health indicate a particularly high incidence of this practice among Pakistani Norwegians. Wholly 41 percent of children born in Norway between 1967 and 2010 to Pakistani families were fathered by cousins.
The proposal was supported by Culture Minister Abid Raja, who stressed that he spoke as a private person, not on behalf of the Liberals or the government.
"I would like to commend the Oslo police for starting this important debate, not least because of their principled stance", Raja told NRK. However, he warned that the ban alone will not tackle the entire scope of the problem.
Earlier, Raja, the first Muslim to be elected vice president of the Norwegian parliament, related how he himself was promised to his cousin in Pakistan, but resisted the pressure and eventually got married to his current wife.
The Labour Party, which unsuccessfully presented a similar proposal in the parliament two years ago, supported the police.
"We are absolutely against cousin marriage, we still believe it should be banned. We didn't get the support from government parties in 2018, now we hope they'll hop on the bandwagon and get rid of this, both for health and honour-related reasons", Labour integration spokesperson Siri Stålesen said.
By contrast, the leader of the Norwegian Immigration Forum, Athar Ali, argued that people have to decide for themselves who they want to share their lives with.
"I don't think it is right to ban marriages between cousins. It must, of course, be based on voluntary basis. Needless to say, I oppose any kind of coercion and pressure. But that said, I think people must be able to choose for themselves who to marry", Ali said. He suggested that there are other measures against honour crimes and negative social control than banning marriage between cousins.
The debate over the legality of cousin marriage has been going on for many years.
Worldwide, more than 10 percent of marriages are between first or second cousins. Opinions on the merits of the practice vary widely. The Middle East and Africa have uniquely high rates of cousin marriage among the world's regions, a practice adopted by immigrants in Europe and the US.
By contrast, cousin marriage is legally prohibited in some jurisdictions such as China, Taiwan, North Korea, and some US states.
Children of first-cousin marriages were found to have an increased risk of genetic disorders.