In-breeding, know scientifically as Consanguineous Marriage, is a demonstrable health problem all over the world. And we all know how common it is in Oman for marriages to be between first cousins.
Modern lifestyle 'brings new challenges'
Published: August 24, 2008, 23:28
Muscat: A study conducted among patients with coronary heart disease in Muscat suggests that people with hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and a family history of coronary heart disease, consanguinity and sedentary occupations are to be considered at high risk of developing the disease.
In addition to lifestyle, the study points out that the tradition and custom of marrying close relatives also contributes to this emerging problem. Consanguinity is quite common with 34 per cent of women married to first cousins and 20 per cent married to other relations.
Inbreeding can, and has, been measured. Here's a map.
Oman rates relatively high globally at around 35% on this map, although not at the top. However, Dr. S Joshi, Senior Consultant at SQU Hospital in a presentation given in Morocco in 2006 stated Oman's rate is a shocking 52%, with 38% 'first degree' - ie first cousins.
Given the inexorable rise in diabetes in Oman, and the cultural preferences for inbreeding, perhaps it time for Oman Health authorities to boost the resources and advertising associated with their programme of genetic counseling (and testing) for prospective spouses? (this service is supposedly available...
Premarital counseling clinics are available in all regional hospitals in the Sultanate. Doctors in primary health care institutions can organize the referral.
And perhaps the Government should also be far more active to encourage marriage between people who are, well, not related? (and not just leave it to the Omani girls and boys currently meeting in the Sultanate's shopping malls and fast food joints on the quiet!).
Not only would it improve the genetic health of the population, it would also act to break down many of the tribal barriers that remain very strong here and act to divide the loyalities of people between nation and tribe.