"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Incest - Germany considers a mediaeval law that punishes sibling sex

Incest is probably a universal taboo. "Coitus between relatives" is illegal in German law and punishable with a fine or a jail sentence, as it is in most countries.. it also has overtones of the Nazi german racial purity laws.

There is currently a case before Germany's Federal Constitutional Court which it is currently mulling over, that is causing a great deal of re-appraisal and fevered public discussion of the current state of the law for over 12 months in Germany.

Must consensual sex between close relatives be punished? Germany's highest court is about to rule whether incest will continue to result in a jail term. The case involves siblings who have had 4 children together.

Patrick S. was born in Leipzig (then in E Germany) in 1976, the second of five children. His sister Susan K. was born eight years later, and he didn't meet her until he was 23.

Father was a violent alcoholic. When Patrick was 3 his father grabbed him and held a knife to his throat. Neighbors called the police and Patrick was taken into care before being handed to foster parents near Potsdam.

When he was 23 he went to the youth welfare office to find his real mother. A few days later she contacted him.

On May 20, 2000 he travelled to Leipzig to see his mother again for the first time in 20 years. His parents had separated long before and the mother had a new partner. The three other siblings have since died, and the 16-year-old girl staring at him wide-eyed across the living room table was his sister, Susan.

Unexpectedly and suddenly , on December 12, 2000, the mother died.

Susan became pregnant with Patrick's child and their relationship became known to the authorities. They have been prosecuted repeatedly as other children have arrived although Patrick had a vasectomy in 2004. Currently their first son E,is in the care of a foster family was born 2 months premature and has epilepsy, and two other children were also placed in care. One of them S, has "special needs".

Patrick S. has served a jail sentence of more than 2 years because he fathered his sister's child, and he may have to go back to jail for at least another year.

The key issue is whether the protection of a powerful moral taboo is sufficient justification for punishment. And whether there are reasons beyond that taboo for locking someone up, for depriving children of their father, a woman of her partner.

Some 2-4 % of the population have "incestuous experiences", according to an estimate by the Freiburg-based Max Planck Institute. There are fewer than 10 convictions for incestuous sex in Germany per year.

Incest trials usually involve a father's abuse of an under-age daughter, which is punishable under a separate law on abusing minors. Even cases of incest between siblings that come to trial are usually based on sexual abuse charges.

But social research shows that incest is more likely to be the result of family problems than the cause. Eugenic aspects, which the German statue book cites regarding sibling incest, are a poor justification for punishment. The risk of hereditary disease for offspring also exists with other people with genetic defects. Yet the German constitution, or any other, would scarcely forbid such people from having children.

Some legal systems no longer criminalize adult incest. The French Criminal Code removed its incest prohibition in 1810, and other countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Japan, Argentina, Brazil as well as a few other Latin American countries and several U.S. states have followed suit.

In the UK the Sexual Offences Act of 2004 in a little noticed change amongst the wholesale review instigated by David Blunkett, in fact went the other way and updated incest offences to cover not just blood relatives but also foster and adoptive parents and live-in partners. ...which brought it into line with Incest and Related Offences (Scotland) Act 1986 (c. 36). The UK marriage laws of course prevent marriage between blood relatives and also between adoptive parents.

We need this law against incest in Germany and in the whole of Europe," said Professor Juergen Kunze, a geneticist at Berlin's Charite Hospital.

"It is based on long traditions in Western societies, and the law is here for a good reason," said Prof Kunze.

"Medical research has shown that there is a higher risk of genetic abnormalities when close relatives have a child together. When siblings have children, there is a 50% chance that the child will be disabled," he said.

So far there has been no decision but the vice-president of the Constitutional Court said that there will be a 'fundamental discussion' about this issue in Germany.

Newspapers covered this story in the UK - Guradian The Independent Daily Mail their comment columns provide an interesting insight into what is/is not considered socially acceptable.

...and yes ... book deals , TV /Film rights are being negotiated..

UPDATE Thursday March 13th 2008

Germany's Constitutional Court, the country's highest judicial body, ruled today that incest in Germany violates the country's Basic Law. The judges rejected a petition by Patrick K. to overturn previous incest convictions.

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