A Perth-based researcher has called for an end to the stigma surrounding marriage between cousins, after uncovering evidence that the health risks have been greatly exaggerated.
Murdoch University adjunct professor Alan Bittles has shed new light on the consequences of intra-familial marriages, which he says are on the rise in Australia due to increased migration.
Bittles has sought to address common misconceptions of same-blood marriage, from a social, medical and religious perspective, in a new book based on 35 years of research.
Bittles claims more than 1.1 billion people are either married to a close relative or are the offspring of such a marriage, which are common in many Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Jewish communities.
In his book, Consanguinity in Context, Bittles called for greater understanding and acceptance of the practice, which is largely taboo in Western countries.
He said there was a general belief that first cousin marriages lead to negative genetic outcomes, yet a large majority of children born to first cousins are healthy.
And in many cases of those born with defects, non-genetic factors were often to blame.