Incest Is 'Taboo' but Shouldn't Be Illegal, German Experts Say

A German flag flutters next to the dome of the Reichstag building in Berlin
A German flag flutters next to the dome of the Reichstag building, seat of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, on Oct. 2, 2013.Fabrizio Bensch / REUTERS file

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MAINZ, Germany -- An advisory board to Germany's government has called for a revision of the country’s incest law, which would end the criminalization of sex between siblings. The 26-member German Ethics Council's recommendations follow a controversial incest case, in which a brother and his half-sister had four children together — including two who are disabled. Patrick Stuebing, who met his half-sister when he was 24 and she was 16, served more than three years in prison after authorities deemed the relationship unlawful. “The majority of the German Ethics Council believes that it is not appropriate for a criminal law to preserve a social taboo,” Dr. Michael Wunder, a psychotherapist and member of the council, told NBC News. “But the ethics council does not recommend decriminalizing sex between parents and children.”

In its 90-page analysis [link in German], the council concluded that "the right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination in a consensual relationship weighs heavier in these cases than the abstract good of the family." It added that “neither the consequences for the family nor the possibility for descendants from such incestuous relationships can justify a ban under criminal law.” The panel's members include experts in "scientific, medical, theological, ethical, social, economic and legal concerns." German lawmakers were quick to voice concern over the recommendation. Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, a member of Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, wrote on her website that "the legalization of incest among siblings would send a wrong signal."

- Andy Eckardt