Bad news from abroad:
The news is that five people have been convicted of murdering a newlywed couple in India.  (A Disgrace to the Village ECONOMIST vol. 395 no. 8678 April 17, 2010 page 48.)  The murders were an “honor killing.”  It seems that there are hundreds of such killings in India each year, but this is the first time that a death sentence has been handed down.  Whether it will actually be carried out remains to be seen.

The offence to “honor” was marrying inside the gotra, or clan.  This is forbidden by tradition.  Such killings are also spurred by marrying outside of caste.  In that case although the action is horrible, the motivation seems clear enough.  Indian social structure depends on the castes.  Allow intermarrying and the situation falls apart.  Of course such intermarriage can probably be expected to produce a fall in fertility anyway.  I assume that members of different castes are only remotely related.  There is no such thing as unrelated in humans, of course.  The situation is quite different from the situation with “race” here, assuming “race” means what you are expected to write down on your census form.  There has been sufficient intermarriage between races so that relatives of an excellent degree of kinship for fertility are not rarely of different races. 

Marriage within a clan is thought of as incest.  Just how true that might be I do not know, but when I looked up gotras I counted 9,285 of them, give or take a hundred.  Assuming I found half, that would mean about 20,000.  If there are a billion people in India and half have gotras, that would be on average 25,000 in a gotra.  Well that is simply too big for a viable gene pool.  Traditions run very deep and very ancient in India.  Unless I am missing something the “tradition” of marrying outside of gotra cannot be very old.  No doubt each clan is broken up with members living in many villages, so it is hard to know, but it appears that they could not have survived.  And since it must be recent, where did they get it?  The must have gotten it from the West.

So why in the world would an ancient civilization, by far the most ancient unbroken society of any great size in the world, adopt this new “tradition?”  With the luxury of utter ignorance I imagine they think it is a way to maintain fertility.  It is not.

The murders are said to have been done by the bride’s relatives.  That suggests they were not the groom’s known relatives, so the issue of incest of any significant degree is utterly out of the question. 

So the murders were misguided on multiple counts.  Beyond the obvious questions of respect for life and for the discretion of others, if their motivation was indeed to promote fertility, they have taken exactly the wrong approach.  Basic human respect is important and difficult to establish, but taking fertility out of the question ought to be easy. 

Somebody needs to be told.  It could save lives. 

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