Is It Legal To Marry Your Cousin In South Africa

In South Africa, marriage between first cousins is legal nationwide. Here’s an overview of South Africa’s laws concerning cousin marriages and prevailing societal attitudes.

Law Does Not Prohibit Cousin Marriages

According to South Africa’s Marriage Act 25 of 1961, marriages are permitted between biological first cousins with no prohibitions or limitations imposed. There are no regulations barring first cousin marriage.

This allowance extends to double first cousins who share both sets of grandparents rather than just one. Despite being genetically similar to half-siblings, double first cousins may still legally wed under South African law.

No Special Rules for Establishing Marriage

South African first cousins can marry under the standard marriage rules and procedures. There are no special requirements like genetic testing or medical screenings imposed on cousin couples.

As long as they meet age, consent, and other typical marriage requirements, cousins face no impediments to legal marriage. The law does not differentiate cousins from other couples seeking to wed.

Societal Attitudes May Vary

However, even though lawful nationwide, social acceptance of cousin marriage differs across communities. Surveys indicate over 50% of South Africans overall oppose allowing first cousin marriage.

But attitudes diverge between ethnic groups and generations. Some traditional tribal groups have historically practiced cousin marriage, while younger generations express more openness.

Rationale for Allowing Cousin Marriage

Proponents argue banning cousin marriage excessively limits personal freedom between consenting adults and is unsupported by evidence of harm. South Africa emphasizes individual rights regarding marriage.

Yet stigma persists due to associations with incest and concerns about potential health effects on offspring. But the law grants couples autonomy.


In summary, South African first cousins have the legal right to marry under national law, which places no restrictions on such unions. However, social acceptance fluctuates across regions and demographics. Cousin couples should be prepared for mixed reactions from others even if their marriage is legally valid.

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