In India, marriage between first cousins is legal under civil law, though certain restrictions apply. Here is an overview of India’s laws regarding cousin unions and prevailing societal attitudes.

Civil Law Permits Cousin Marriage

According to the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, marriage is permitted between first cousins except in cases where it is prohibited by custom or usage applicable to the parties. There is no blanket prohibition under civil law.

However, individual communities and regions of India have set customary rules and limitations on marrying cousins that can determine legality for those groups. These must be examined.

Restrictions Based on Community Customs

Many communities in South India prohibit or discourage marriage between first cousins, holding such unions in customarily high disapproval. Among North Indian Hindus, cross-cousin marriages are more widely accepted.

Additionally, marriage between a boy and his maternal uncle’s daughter is prohibited by custom among Hindus in some regions. Couples must reference their local customs.

Prevalence Varies by Region and Religion

Rates of cousin marriage are highest in South Indian states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, where uncle-niece and first cousin unions are customary among many communities.

Some Muslim communities also practice high rates of cousin marriage permitted under Indian Islamic law. But Hindu and Christian groups discourage it today overall.

Social Stigma Remains Widespread

Despite legality, the majority of modern Indian society still opposes unions between first cousins as incestuous and harmful. Surveys indicate over 75% of Indians disapprove of cousin marriage.

Stigma stems from suspicions of genetic defects as well as changing social norms that consider such marriages undesirable.


In summary, civil law permits first cousin marriage but customary prohibitions that vary by region and community must be considered. Social disapproval remains strong nationwide. The complex legal and cultural landscape poses challenges for couples in most parts of India.