British-Pakistani Woman, Aisha Khan, Refused to Marry her First Cousin

Aisha, now 36, was only eight when she woke up to find her home in West Yorkshire, her four-year-old brother died. For months she expected Sarfraz, her tiny brother, to return but she never saw him again.

The brave British-Pakistani woman who refused to marry her First cousin

The brave British-Pakistani woman who refused to marry her First cousin

Aisha grew up in Keighley, where up to 20 per cent of the population is Pakistani and Muslim. Many come from the same few villages in Mirpur, a region now known as ‘Little England’.

Her twin brother Ahmed died aged just two-and- a-half. Her elder sister Tahira has serious learning difficulties, and another brother, Kasim, born just two years after Sarfraz’s death, had problems so severe that he required 24-hour care and did not live to see his 18th birthday.

Aisha’s Pakistani-born parents, Mohammed and Barkat, are first cousins. Scientific studies over at least three decades have linked first-cousin unions to an increased risk of genetic disease.

For a dramatic rise in the number of children with genetic disorders being treated in British hospitals. The figures show that up to 20 per cent of the children treated for congenital problems in cities such as Sheffield, Glasgow and Birmingham are of Pakistani descent, a figure significantly greater than the background populations, which can be four per cent or lower.

Two per cent of the population in the UK is Pakistani or British Pakistani, according to the 2011 Census – just under one million people. Estimates suggest half the marriages are ‘consanguineous’ – between blood relatives – a largely cultural tradition aimed at keeping wealth and property within families.

The trend is clear. They show that in Sheffield, for example, 20 per cent of affected children are of Pakistani descent compared with a background population of four per cent. In Glasgow, the proportion is about 18 per cent, even though Pakistanis account for 3.8 per cent of the local population.

In Manchester, Derby and Leeds, about one in ten children with a genetic disorder is of Pakistani heritage – again significantly above the background population. Then there is that extraordinary increase in Pakistani children with genetic disorders in Birmingham – a 42 per cent rise in six years

Aisha broke with tradition by refusing to marry a cousin, so great were her concerns about the risk. She said, ‘My dad would not accept that being married to his cousin could have affected his children,’ she said. ‘He’d say, “The doctors are wrong. It’s in the hands of God.”

‘In his mind, it was all about the will of Allah – nothing to do with genetics, which made me hugely frustrated. He’d say if genetics was the reason, how come some of his children were healthy?

A study carried out among Pakistani families in Luton in 2015 found infant mortality rate is a staggering 63 per cent higher in the town than the national average, and is at its highest in the Pakistani community.

Aisha says, more have to talk about it. That’s key. I’ve had three siblings die. If my parents had known, maybe we could have avoided that.’

Original News Source: DM