Why incest is forbidden

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Two paternal cousins from the Feremenga family in Dzivarasekwa Extension, Harare, whose incestuous relationship resulted in two pregnancies, were recently convicted and ordered to perform 630 hours of community service at different institutions in the suburb.

Saturday Dialogue with Ropafadzo Mapimhidze

Robson (21) and Ashley Feremenga (19), whose fathers are blood brothers, pleaded guilty to incest charges. Ashley is now expecting baby number two and they both are willing to live as husband and wife.

This story has generated so much debate and I decided to do a bit of research on reasons why incest is taboo, and why incest occurs despite the prohibition. And what the consequences are.

Royal families are all related and have deep blood ties across Europe with other royal families. This was encouraged to safeguard the royal bloodline.

However, a disease called haemophilia – which is the inability for blood to coagulate or clot — was typical of such families. It was later discovered that it was actually genetically linked to such marriages.

There are also a lot of babies born to first cousin arranged marriages that die soon after birth in UK’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, Bare Naked Islam, a website on Internet has revealed.

It claims that at least 75% of Muslim marriages involve first cousin marriages.

Such children can be born with extra toes, three eyes, and they can also grow to become homosexual, they may also have a low IQ and a potential to mentally harm future offspring, says the website. It also notes that such children can become people who are not able to interact with others or express love.

The New York Times recently reported that first cousins are somewhat more likely than unrelated parents to have a child with a serious birth defect, mental retardation or genetic disease, but their increased risk is nowhere near as large as most people think, the newspaper quoted research done by some scientists.

There are millions of children born around the world to close relatives where brother and sister, father and daughter, son and mother, or to first cousins. Also known as inbreeding, incest is largely to sexual abuse.

These children sometimes die shortly after birth from defects stemming from the fact that the parents have a similar genetic formation.

One psychologist stated that these cases have always existed, but were normally dealt with by traditional leaders in Zimbabwe, for instance, that would conduct ceremonies to cleanse families from these “curses”.

“Children grow up not knowing who their nieces and nephews are and when they do eventually meet there is an attraction that takes place that sometimes develops into a sexual relationship.

This also happens sometimes to fathers who reunite with daughters they never raised,” the psychologist said. That is called genetic sexual attraction (GSA), a sexual attraction between close relatives, who first meet as adults.

Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association (Zinatha) acting president George Kandiero said incest, just like gays and lesbian relationships, was a serious social problem that Zimbabwe is faced with which he described as a curse for both family and the nation.
“Years ago, we never saw the kind of dressing we see today . . . It used to be taboo to expose your body in the name of fashion. Our culture has been eroded, lost its value and hence the reason why we are experiencing such developments.

“Traditionally, such matters were dealt with by chiefs who then would find the rightful people to raise products of incest. We have to go back to our roots and see how best these matters can be dealt with the Zimbabwean way because these children are innocent victims of incest,” Kandiero said. A few years ago a weekly newspaper carried a story about a father who sired at least five children with his own daughter at a village in Masvingo.

Although neighbours were aware of the goings-on no one dared to ask or make a report because the man involved was feared in the village so much that he went about his affairs as though all was normal.

However, the man did eventually get arrested. But this development did not solve the problem at all. The daughter and her children immediately became outcasts as villagers ridiculed them, with villagers not wanting any links with them because they said they were a bad omen.

Kandiero explains that traditional leaders should play a major role in the rehabilitation of such people. He added that such children are innocent human beings and that the isolation of such people is justly unfair.

Some people noted that it was also taboo in Zimbabwe to fall in love or have sexual contact with someone whom you share the same totem with.

The problem today is that men and women do not ask about their totems when dating and by the time they realise that they share the same totem, they would have already engaged in sexual activities, and sometimes the woman would have fallen pregnant.

This is what is called accidental incest.“Schools should introduce such subjects. This is because we no longer have folklore storytelling that used to raise such matters and I feel that this is a sad loss to our rich culture,” Kandiero said.

Sometimes a ritual is performed to break such relationships, but like a spirit medium called Nehoreka from Chiweshe said a few years ago in an interview: “How do you break relationships that run in the blood? That is nonsense. Those marriages are null and void.”
Let’s get your thoughts about this subject.
Feedback:rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw

4 COMMENTS

  1. In my traditional community, a traditional cleansing ceremony would be administered for “cheka hukama” symbolically using a spotless cow/oxen/goat/sheep. On reflection, this remedial measure was taken more in a bid to protect the subsequent progeny subsisting from these undesirable relationships than to exonerate the ill practice. The Masvingo case you site is a case in-point. Five innocent children now find themselves isolated from their immediate community as they are being considered “undesirables” or outcasts.

    The cause for incest aside, the ensuing status is irreversible and alienating the victims thence from is clearly a punitive initiative shot of condemning them to the gallows.

    Beyond awarding a corrective sentence on the perpetrators, the Government should always administer some counselling sessions to the victims in order to mitigate the suffering.

  2. In my traditional community, a traditional cleansing ceremony would be administered for “cheka hukama” symbolically using a spotless cow/oxen/goat/sheep. On reflection, this remedial measure was taken more in a bid to protect the subsequent progeny subsisting from these undesirable relationships than to exonerate the ill practice. The Masvingo case you cite is a case in-point. Five innocent children now find themselves isolated from their immediate community as they are being considered “undesirables” or outcasts.

    The cause for incest aside, the ensuing status is irreversible and alienating the victims thence from is clearly a punitive initiative short of condemning them to the gallows.

    Beyond awarding a corrective sentence on the perpetrators, the Government should always administer some counselling sessions to the victims in order to mitigate the suffering.

    • In the middle east and north Africa families marry among themselves, it is the tradition. This article says that offspring of such reunions normaly cannot express love. It is clear now why there are so many people wanting to be suicide bombers, I thought it had to do with the forty virgins that are promised in paradise, but now I know!!

  3. I’m sorry, this reason simply does not hold up to scrutiny: “Such children can be born with extra toes, three eyes, and they can also grow to become homosexual, they may also have a low IQ and a potential to mentally harm future offspring, says the website. It also notes that such children can become people who are not able to interact with others or express love…These children sometimes die shortly after birth from defects…” Yes, that happens with unrelated lovers, too. We do not prevent people with obvious, serious genetic diseases and birth defects from marrying or having children, so why deny the right to marry or even just be together to healthy cousins?

    They are consenting adults. Leave them alone. It is a waste of resources to prosecute consenting adults who are in love.

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