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'Incest Between Siblings Should Not Be Criminalised', Recommends German Ethics Council

25/09/2014 12:11 BST | Updated 25/09/2014 12:59 BST
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Germany’s national ethics council has voted for an end to the criminalisation of incest between siblings.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the majority of the council’s members requested that consensual sexual relations between siblings of legal age should no longer be a crime, Deutsche Welle reports.

The newspaper says the matter was put to the council after ongoing appeals made by a Leipzig man over his relationship with his sister.

Patrick Stuebing was adopted as an infant and met his sister Susan Karolewski in his 20s. The pair had four children before he was convicted of incest and jailed.

Since his imprisonment he has launched several appeals, prompting much debate on the matter.

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Stuebing failed in appeals to the Federal Constitution Court in 2008 and to the European Court of Human Rights over his rights to a family life in 2012.

Karolewski was allowed to keep custody of their youngest child but that the other three were taken into care. Two of the children are disabled though it is uncertain whether incest is the cause.

The German Ethics Council statement, as reported by The Independent, said: “Incest between siblings appears to be very rare in Western societies according to the available data but those affected describe how difficult their situation is in light of the threat of punishment.

“They feel their fundamental freedoms have been violated and are forced into secrecy or to deny their love.

“The majority of the German Ethics Council is of the opinion that it is not appropriate for a criminal law to preserve a social taboo.

“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.”

Responding to the vote, spokeswoman for Angela Merkel's CDU party, Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, told Deutsche Welle the abolition of the law against incest would give out the wrong signal.

"Abolishing criminal punishment against incestuous actions within a family would go completely against protecting the undisturbed development of children," she added.

Stephan Mayer, interior policy spokesman of the CDU parliamentary group in the Bundestag told Bild: “The recommendation is scandalous!

“Incest between siblings and close relatives is not without reason criminalised. Hereditary diseases and disabilities are the result of children from such a connection.

“The Ethics Council must wonder if it is still up to its name and order with this immoral advance. The decision of the committee is absolutely unacceptable.”

Germany, as with most Council of Europe states, bars consensual sexual acts between adult siblings.

The Telegraph writes that around two to four per cent of Germans have had “incestuous experiences”, citing an estimate by the Max Planck Institute.