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Has the long-predicted decline in consanguineous marriage in India occurred?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 December 2019

Nutan Kumari
International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, India
Alan H. Bittles
School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia Centre for Comparative Genomics, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia
Prem Saxena*
International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, India
*Corresponding author. Email:


To an extent the question posed in the title of this paper can simply be answered in the affirmative. Based on the extensive data available from the National Family Health Survey-1 (NFHS-1) conducted in 1992–93 and NFHS-4 in 2015–16 there has been a significant overall decline of some 19% in the prevalence of consanguineous marriage in India. However, when examined at state level the picture is more complex, with large reductions in consanguinity in southern states where intra-familial marriage previously has been strongly favoured, whereas in some northern states in which close kin unions traditionally have been proscribed small increases were recorded. In a country such as India, comprising an estimated 18% of the current world population and with multiple ethnic, religious, geographical and social sub-divisions, apparently contrary findings of this nature are not unexpected – especially given the major shifts that are underway in family sizes, in education and employment, and with rapid urbanization. The changing health profile of the population also is an important factor, with non-communicable diseases now responsible for a majority of morbidity and premature mortality in adulthood. The degree to which future alterations in the prevalence and profile of consanguineous marriage occur, and at what rate, is difficult to predict – the more so given the markedly diverse cultural identities that remain extant across the Sub-Continent, and ongoing intra-community endogamy.

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press 2019

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