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German Council Votes to Allow Incest

german govt bldgThe German Ethics Council has voted to abolish the ban on incestuous relationships, calling them an unacceptable intrusion upon the right of sexual self-determination.

The Telegraph is reporting on the decision which the Council claimed was based on extensive research into the issue and the fact that too many incestuous couples were being forced to live in secret. They also claim it is unjust to prohibit incestuous couples from reproducing when other couples who are "genetically affected" are not restricted. “Criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo,” the Council said in a statement. “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”

The ruling comes in the wake of the widely publicized case of Patrick Stübing, an unemployed locksmith, who was arrested for being involved in a incestuous relationship with his biological sister, Susan Karolewski. The two have four children together, only one of whom is healthy. Two suffer from the kind of severe physical and mental disabilities common to children born to parents who are too closely related and a third child has a heart defect so serious it required a heart transplant.

“Criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo,” the German Ethics Council said in a statement. “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”

Their intervention follows a notorious case in which Patrick Stübing was arrested for being involved in a incestuous relationship with his biological sister, Susan Karolewski. The two have four children together, only one of whom is healthy. Two children suffer from the kind of severe physical and mental disabilities common to children born to parents who are too closely related, and are said to be barely able to walk. A third child has a heart defect so serious it required a heart transplant.

Patrick and Susan were separated by adoption and were raised separately. They met when Patrick became an adult and decided to track down his birth mother and the little sister he never knew.

"We didn't know each other in childhood," Susan said in a 2007 interview. "It's not the same for us. We fell in love as adults and our love is real. There is nothing we could do about it. We were both attracted to each other and then nature took over from us. It was that simple. What else could we do? We followed our instincts and our hearts."

She was only 16 when their first child was born.

The two have been in and out of the courts ever since. Arrested and tried for incest in 2002, Patrick received a year's suspended jail term after being found guilty on all counts. Susan, who was only 17 at the time, was treated as a juvenile and placed in the care of youth services.

But after two more children were born to the pair, they were hauled into court again and this time the judge was not as lenient. Patrick was sentenced to ten months in prison. In 2005, he was arrested again for incest and made to serve two and a half years. During that time, Susan, who told German newspapers she couldn't live without him, then had a child with another man.

The two began fighting the courts more vigorously and called for the elimination on the ban on incest.

"We are challenging this law because we do not want to be separated ever again," Patrick said in 2007 from the two-bedroom apartment he shared with Susan and their newest child.

The latest ruling from the Council is their only victory so far and one that is not expected to get much further. A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government is unlikely to adopt the Ethics Council’s recommendations.

“The abolition of the offense of incest between siblings would be the wrong signal,” said Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker. “Eliminating the threat of punishment against incestuous acts within families would run counter to the protection of undisturbed development for children.”

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