European Court of Human Rights rules Germany allowed to ban incest

Friday, April 13, 2012

European Court of Human Rights courtroom, from file.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled bans upon incest do not breach the European Convention on Human Rights, and a German man's conviction can stand.

Patrick Stuebing was put in an orphanage three years after his 1976 birth and did not meet his biological sister Susan Karolewski until their mother's death in 2000. The brother and sister began a sexual relationship early in 2001 that lasted until 2005, when Stuebing was convicted of incest. Karolewski escaped conviction owing to a personality disorder deemed to reduce her culpability.

Stuebing, who served time in prison, claimed this amounted to a breach of his right to a family and private life. The court disagreed, noting "the protection of marriage and the family" and "the risk of significant [genetic] damage" to offspring as reasons for the ban.

Stuebing and Karolewski have four children, three of whom are in care and two of whom are disabled. It was argued in court that similarly risky situations, such as older women giving birth or parents who are themselves disabled, are entirely lawful.