Legal incest vs society’s sure disgust

There is hardly anything nowadays that anyone can say to the public that will be guaranteed to shock. The relentlessly radical libertines among us have seen to it.

Liberty and freedom –– grounded in individual entitlements which some United Nations human rights arm obsesses with –– are now clearly understood to be the power or scope to act or behave as one pleases; and, if it has anything to do with sexual pleasures, to be as unreservedly indulgent as one could be. And let this be stated upfront, this is no potshot at our gay community; enough said already on that.

Just mid last week, Germany’s National Ethics Council –– and we underscore Ethics –– calculatedly and methodically proposed the end to the criminalization of incest between siblings. The recommendation came after the council’s examination of the case of Patrick Stuebing, whose sister Susan Karolewski bore him four children, for which he was imprisoned after being convicted of incest in 2008. He spent three years in prison, failing an appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court in 2008 and to the European Court Of Human Rights over his argued entitlement to “a family life” in 2012.

Mr Stuebing’s sad tale is that he was adopted as an infant and only met his sister for the first time in 2000 –– since they were not raised together –– when he was 24 and she was 16. The sadder story is that he would be a practising father to none of their four children born between 2001 and 2005.

Ms Karolewski would however be allowed to keep custody of their youngest child; but the other three, two of whom are disabled maybe because of the incest, would be taken into national care. Perhaps, Ms Karolewski was not at first aware she was cohabiting with her brother, as it was reportedly Mr Stuebing who had done the family search. Maybe, the young mother’s “personality disorder” was a contributing factor to a sympathetic decision of sorts.

Naturally, Mr Stuebing’s lengthy legal battle would prompt much public debate at home and abroad. After all, sexual intercourse between siblings and between parents and their children are forbidden by German law, as by legislation in most other places, including right here in Barbados; and offenders face long imprisonment.

Nonetheless, on Wednesday last week, the German Ethics Council, much to the discomfiture of Chancellor Angela Merkel, recommended that such law be repealed –– even at the risk of disabilities in children of such unions.

On the ubiquitous platform of “rights”, the council asserted that incestuous couples “feel their fundamental freedoms . . . violated and are forced into secrecy or to deny their love”.

The German Ethics Council says the law against incest puts couples “in a tragic situation” –– with which we agree, if said couples are unaware they are siblings or otherwise equally closely related. But how ought we to treat those who deliberately and wilfully procreate knowing themselves to be brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons?

Argues the German Ethics Council: “In the case of consensual incest among adult siblings, neither the fear of negative consequences for the family, nor the possibility of the birth of children from such incestuous relationships can justify a criminal prohibition.

“The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination has more weight in such cases than the abstract protection of the family.”

Responsively, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Merkel has told the ethics council that the abolition of the law against incest would give the wrong signal.

“Abolishing criminal punishment against incestuous actions within a family would go completely against protecting the undisturbed development of children,” Ms Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker told the German television station Deutsche Welle.

Indeed, what of the well-being and upgrowth of offspring of such unions? At least, the German Ethics Council’s recommendation only covers incest between siblings, and not the decriminalizing of sex between parents and children. Thank God!

But there is little comfort to be taken from the knowledge that in France, Belgium, Holland, Turkey, Japan and Brazil consensual sexual relations between adult relatives are reportedly no longer illegal. And with Switzerland already giving its blessings to cohabitation between half-siblings, it requires no genius to imagine what could be next.

One thing is sure; the amending of the law against consensual sex among family relatives –– inclusive of brothers and sisters –– will not change the social distaste for it for most of us.

Still, we can’t help but ask how far behind could be decriminalized bestiality in the minds of those advocates who would unwittingly and ignorantly destroy our society and culture.

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