Although the recent Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) show that two-thirds of marriages in Pakistan are consanguineous, the sociocultural determinants of such marriages remain largely unexplored. This paper examines the relative importance of the three commonly perceived reasons for such marriages: religious, economic and cultural. The analysis is based on qualitative data collected in 1995 from multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan. Results show that consanguineous marriages are preferred across all ethnic and religious groups to a varying degree, and that parents continue to be the prime decision-makers for marriages of both sons and daughters. The major reasons for a preference for consanguineous marriages are sociocultural rather than any perceived economic benefits, either in the form of consolidation of family property or smaller and less expensive dowries. Among Muslims, following religious traditions is the least commonly cited reason for such marriages. Despite the reported sociocultural advantages of consanguineous marriages, such unions are perceived to be exploitative as they perpetuate the existing power structures within the family.
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