Marrying "Well": Debating Consanguinity, Matrimonial Law, and Brazilian Legal Medicine, 1890-1930 Article

cited authors

  • Otovo, O

fiu authors


  • On August 28, 1919, Brazil's most famous pediatrician, Dr. Carlos Arthur Moncorvo Filho, addressed his colleagues at the illustrious National Academy of Medicine in Rio de Janeiro, reminding them that consanguineous marriage was the topic of the moment. Dr. Moncorvo Filho's insistence that "everyone knew why" was a reference to a proposal made before the Senate just three months prior by Senators Eloy de Souza of the state of Pernambuco and Álvaro de Carvalho of São Paulo. The senators proposed that language prohibiting marriage between blood relatives in the recently ratified Brazilian Civil Code be amended to allow for special juridical or medical dispensation. Souza and Carvalho, with the backing of the Catholic Church and a minority of members of the Brazilian Institute of Attorneys, supported permitting marriage between third-degree relatives under special circumstances. At issue for the attorneys was how the law would deal with situations in which couples had a compelling need to marry within the third degree of kinship. A recent case of an uncle who had "deflowered" his niece and then offered to "remedy the damage" through marriage brought this issue to public debate. Marriages between uncles and their nieces and aunts and their nephews (third-degree relations) were traditional in Brazil, and Brazilian law had a long history of yielding to custom and context. However, under the new laws of the 30-year-old republic, this type of marriage was no longer legal, having been specifically prohibited by the 1916 Civil Code. Senators Souza and Carvalho, both lawyers by training, proposed reforming the Code, while their ultimately unsuccessful amendment sparked vigorous debate in both legal and medical circles on the validity of marriage restrictions within the third degree of consanguinity. As a result, physicians at Brazil's leading medical schools and their jurist counterparts at the law schools took sides on this critical issue, dividing themselves into rival camps of consanguinistas and anticonsanguinistas.

publication date

  • June 30, 2015

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 703

end page

  • 743


  • 33


  • 3