Close kin marriages: a documentary with a political underpinning  

It deals with dangers of marriages between close kin; its producer’s aim is to extrapolate scientific facts to such marriages

Published - May 26, 2014 01:13 pm IST - CHENNAI:

Nothing more can encapsulate the caste pride entrenched in society than the assertion of a person interviewed in a Tamil documentary, Theevaraivu (Unhealthy Marriage)-Endogamy vs. Evolution .

“Prisons are created only for the sake of my community. How do you expect me to marry someone outside the community and dilute our traits of bravery,” he retorted, rejecting inter-caste marriage.

Though the central theme of the documentary is the dangers of marriages between close kin, its producer Uma said her objective was to extrapolate the scientific facts to marriages within communities.

“We do not have adequate research materials to argue against marriages within communities. There is need to move in that direction,” she said.

 “A false sense of security in marital relationships to justify caste endogamy is infused in the minds of boys and girls at a very young age, and cinema encourages this trend,” she said. 

In a society where social, political, economical aspects, along with caste and religious pride, continue to remain the overriding factors in arranging marriages rather than biological factors, the film drives home the point that the risks of genetical disorders in close-kin marriages are equally overriding.

“While there is no guarantee that the positive traits of a family will transfer to the progeny, it is almost certain that all the negative traits manifest themselves in the form of physical deformities,” says anthropologist Satyapal of Andhra University. 

Prof. Satyapal pointed out that marrying maternal uncles and first cousins were confined only to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and it was an anathema among the Hindus in North India.

Mr. Satyapal’s argument against close-family marriages was supported by Dr. Manjula, a Kumbakonam-based gynaecologist with 35 years of medical experience. “More than 90 per cent of the abortions due to deformities and birth defects occur in women married to close relatives,” she said.

The image of 10-year-old Rathinam, who strains every nerve to utter a single word and of two housewives sobbing uncontrollably while talking about their ordeal during pregnancy and abortions, conveys powerfully the dangers of marriages between closely related families. 

Deepak, vice-president of the Union of Tamil Nadu Physically Disabled Association, made a fervent plea against such marriages, saying there were 3,000 unknown diseases that silently transferred themselves to the progeny. 

Psychiatrist Jayanthini said the vulnerability factor was more in the marriage between kin despite exceptions. “But again it is like someone saying he never got malaria even though bitten by mosquitoes,” she quipped.

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