Saudi Arabia: Genetic tests lead to 165,000 break-ups

A Saudi couple in Riyadh Image copyright AFP
Image caption About 60% of couples break things off after receiving their test results, according to medical officials

Thousands of couples have called off their engagements in Saudi Arabia as a result of mandatory pre-marital health checks, it's reported.

In the past year, about 165,000 couples have decided not to get married after receiving test results showing "genetic incompatibilities", the Saudi Gazette website reports. The tests are mandatory for couples who are planning to tie the knot, and screen for a number of diseases, including sickle-cell anaemia and HIV. Dr Mohammad al-Saidi, from the health ministry, says the aim is to reduce the risk of parents passing on illnesses or genetic disorders to their children.

According to Dr Saidi, 60% of couples end their engagements after receiving their results, which he says is a sign of success. "The high percentage of failed engagements due to medical risks shows that the society has become more educated and aware of the importance of physical health," he says. "This will also save money for the family and the country." In January, a Riyadh-based genetic researcher said Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of genetic diseases in the world. Pre-marital health tests aim to prevent marriages between close relatives - a longstanding practice in Saudi Arabia - which can lead to serious medical problems in offspring.

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