They aren't all first cousins: Bedouin marriage and health policies in Lebanon

Nisrine Mansour, Dawn Chatty, Faysal El-Kak, Nasser Yassin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Fertility and consanguineous marriages among the Bedouin tribes of the Middle East have long generated interest particularly around health outcomes and social relations. In particular, Bedouin in Lebanon have increasingly embraced the Lebanese national bio-medical health system in the past two decades, while Lebanese policy-makers' responses continue to be minimal and ill-informed. This paper investigates the mismatch between policy-makers' formulations of Bedouin consanguineous marriages and the Bedouins's actual reproductive practices and discusses the implications of these formulations on the Bedouins's access to health services.Design. The findings are drawn from the data collected as part of the Bedouin Health Project, an EU-funded five-year study (2005-2010), aiming at assessing access to reproductive and child health care among the Bedouin in Lebanon. The data was collected from 6 clusters representing the main Bedouin informal and unrecognized settlements in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. The data consists of 111 socioeconomic questionnaires with Bedouin women users of local public, private, and nongovernmental reproductive and child health-focused clinics, in addition to 40 in-depth interviews with Bedouin women across the clusters and 17 semi-structured interviews with policy-makers.Results. The findings suggest a gap between the perceptions of policy-makers and the incidence of consanguineous marriages and reproductive practices among the Bedouin. While there was no national data available for the Bedouin populations, policy-makers relied on a constructed Bedouin reproductive profile that portrayed them as a problematic health group. The national policy formulation of the Bedouin reproductive profile has an exclusionary impact on the Bedouin population as they are ignored from any targeted health policies or provided with politically motivated palliative care provision.Conclusion. These findings highlight the importance of addressing stereotyping and discrimination among health practitioners and policy-makers, as a crucial part of improving the overall marriage and reproductive health practices of the Bedouin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-547
Number of pages19
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2014


  • Bedouin Bedouin
  • Discrimination
  • Health practitioners
  • Policy-makers
  • health policies
  • reproductive health practices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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