Although I don’t have a sister, I found out some weird news this week. Turns out I can legally artificially inseminate my sister, but it’s against the law for me to actually have intercourse with her. That’s a relief, right?
Wait, what? It’s true. Them’s the rules.
Unless you’re in Germany or pay attention to German media, you likely haven’t heard about this. Here check out my colleague Michael Owen‘s take on the whole thing in Incest laws in Germany may be a bit outdated.
Here’s the section of his article that I found most intriguing:
‘Many developed countries have no laws banning incest, though often they are not allowed to marry. These include France, Japan, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Finland and Brazil to name a few. The countries which do have strict laws forbidding incestous relationships tend to be former countries of the British Commonwealth like Canada and Australia, and include the USA. Germany‘s law on incest is quite peculiar. If a woman would like to be artificially inseminated by the sperm of a lineal relative, i.e. by a brother or her father, this is allowed. But if she becomes pregnant through coitus (sexual intercourse), this is outlawed. The law is actually a law against sex between two consenting adults. Incest is not banned for the safety of the possible progeny, but is a kind of legislation on what happens within the bedroom.’
Perplexing, isn’t it? Now, let me be really candid here. When I first heard about this, I thought, ‘Of course incest is illegal. As well it should be. Right?
Yet I read about this in so many papers, and the general consensus was that laws against incest were old-fashioned. Not everyone, mind you. Just many more than I expected. And it made me really ponder the whole issue. Why was I not only repulsed by the very thought?
Was it purely an issue of religious beliefs that then seeped into my sense of right and wrong? Was it a matter of ethics?
I immediately found myself insisting that there’d be birth defects in not only the next generation but in the ones to come. If you’re truly libertarian in your beliefs, then maybe you can insist that the government has no right to interfere with the actions of two consenting adults. And it’s not like I relish the idea of interfering with people’s private lives.
However, I must admit that I still don’t like it. I think there are some situations where the State must set rules to protect people from themselves. My gut reaction is that this is exactly that sort of matter.
So all of this is academic…theoretical. You know, the having no sister thing. But if I did, I hope I would know better than to procreate with her.
No matter what the law was.