Germany’s Law Banning Incest May Be Changed, or not.

Kissing Cousins Film Poster Photo: WikipediaIn biblical times Abraham was married to a woman, Sarah, whose father was his. In the Greek writer Sophocles’s tragedy, Oedipus the King, the title character fulfilled the prophecy of killing his father and married his mother though he attempted to do everything he could to stop it. More recently, incest has always been a taboo though many cultures still practice it today.

Germany is a land where nudity is worshipped, and sex for money legal

From nudist areas at nearly every public lake (complete with a naked grill zone) to certified prostitutes who pay taxes and contribute to the pension system, Germany has always been a bastion of free liberal thinking when it comes to human sexuality. Who a particular politician is sleeping with at the moment has little significance beyond the pages of its daily newspaper of Die Bild, Germany’s largest tabloid newspaper, and very little bearing on elections. Die Bild also has a nude girl on page one (since moved to the back). English Garden also has a nudist area, not somewhere in the hinterland either, but right at the place where anyone who is walking from the old city to the central hub of the park is confronted with it. Homosexuality, though not fully embraced by the whole population, is more or less an afterthought for most. Magazine covers with nude girls stare out from the display glass of local kiosks. Many TV stations after midnight are transformed into soft porn channels, complete with full frontal nudity, for an appreciating public. All of this only leads to a larger sense of contradiction and confusion in juxtaposition to Germany’s laws banning incest.

The contradiction

A few years ago Patrick S., from Leipzig, was charged, convicted and punished for his incestuous relationship with his sister Susan K. They have had four children together, two of whom have some mental disabilities. Susan was not punished because the court felt she also had some development issues and her emotional makeup was not completely mature. Patrick appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) arguing that his basic rights were violated and that Germany should not have been allowed to punish two consenting adults for their sexual activities. But the ECHR ruled that Germany could punish them for incest, and that Germany’s laws against incest were also permissible.

But the reasoning behind the decision by the court has perhaps asked more questions than it has answered. The ECHR ruled that the main basis of punishment for an incestuous relationship was “the protection of marriage and family,” and because it blurs family roles. It also stated that incest carries “the risk of significant damage” to children born of such a relationship. Patrick’s attorneys argued that children born to mothers in their late forties or fifties also had significant risk. The ECHR disagreed.

Mothers who choose to use fertility drugs and allow multiple births, like the “Octomom” who had octuplets, also have very high risks involved. Women who drink vodka from the bottle and chase it down with cans of Red Bull, only to be interrupted by smoking cigarettes, are also at an extremely high risk for their unborn fetuses. Should these activities be made illegal too?

In Germany, same-sex partners are not permitted to adopt children. So the ECHR’s allowance of punishment for ‘blurring’ the roles of a mother and father is a legitimate reason, if the case were about homosexuality and not incest. It is irrelevant in this case.

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 incestuous 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. So the ECHR’s rationale for siding with Germany that incest creates “the risk of significant damage” to the offspring seems to be illogical when looking at the actual German law. One has to wonder if there are some other agenda or agreement with the still powerful Catholic Church. Few Germans think that this law should be changed (though the numbers are increasing) and be put more in line with the prevailing attitudes on nudity, sex and tolerance. Most politicians would agree.

Recently, there has been a renewed push to put Germany’s laws more in-line with the rest of the EU. Don’t bet on it.


Confessions of an Oktoberfest Hater

A young man tossed this before being tossed by security, at 11:15 in the morning!
This post is a guest post from my good friend Albert Mooney, who sums up succinctly what about half of the people in Munich actually think about Oktoberfest.

It must be like living in Rio and hating Carnival. Or being a Dubliner who dreads St. Patrick’s Day. Or a citizen of Nero’s Rome who has long grown bored with the repetitive tedium of watching Christians being thrown to the lions. I am part of a beleaguered minority of Munich residents for whom the final two weeks of September is something to be endured, not enjoyed. Ours is the Loathing that Dare Not Speak its Name.

I hate Oktoberfest.

I hate the noise. I hate the crowds. I hate the back alley stench of stale alcohol, sour breath, and undigested meat that wafts through our streets as if a drunken giant had just belched. I hate the febrile atmosphere of borderline mania that descends upon an otherwise relaxed city like a chemical smog. I hate the overpriced beer, the harassed waiting staff, and the loss of personal space.

But, above all else, I hate the jollity. Is there anything in this world more unendurable than forced jollity? That particular species of exaggerated, flushed, gesticulating, guffawing, thigh-slapping gaiety that is forced upon us all once a year because that is when we Have Fun. We know everyone is Having Fun, because it’s Oktoberfest, when we all dress in a uniform in order to Have Fun. The laugher that is a little too loud to be sincere, the umpteenth clinking “Prost!” that everyone pretends not to be irritated by, the arm around the office colleague you don’t like as you dance on tables to music you both hate. Because we’re all Having Fun.

Sanitäter des Bayerischen Roten Kreuzes beim Einsatz auf dem Oktoberfest, 2003Some believe that hell is an eternity of fire, others an eternity of ice. I believe the damned are destined to spend the numberless aeons of infinity trapped in an S-Bahn with a bunch of drunken teenagers who boarded at Hackerbrücke on their way back from the Wies’n. Oktoberfest is the Saturnalia of modern Munich, the feast of fools when behavior that for the rest of the year would be considered boorish is smiled upon with amused indulgence. Oh look, you’ve had four Maß and you’re drunk. How wonderful. “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit!” Splendid, I’ve never heard that before. Do please sing it again.

Oktoberfest is the festival of too much. Enough chickens to populate the Titanic are slaughtered, the liquid volume of beer consumed would float the Titanic, and the degree of flatulence generated by both expels sufficient C02 into the atmosphere to melt the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Well, I’ve had enough of too much. I say it every year, but this time I mean it. I’m staying at home with a good book. No Wies’n for me.

Well, maybe just this once.

A Lonely Father’s Day

Dom-Pedro-Platz Forty-year-old Sepp looked at his watch, took a last sip of his coffee, and grabbed his cap. As he was leaving the bakery all he could think about was how excited he was for his last shift before his two-week holiday was to begin. One more shift and then tomorrow he would commence with two weeks of revelry and drunken debauchery at Oktoberfest. He and some of his old school friends reserved a table for the duration, as they did every year, and Sepp went often. Though it had become commercialized in many ways, Sepp still enjoyed the Oktoberfest celebrations. He’d been hung over or had dragged ass too often in his younger days at work during the festival, so he’d just as soon forget trying to balance work and fun. To avoid any issues he now took the two weeks off for the party.

He met his crew at the job site. They were all finishing their last cigarettes before beginning the day. It was overcast and wet, with periods of rain and darker gray. The men were going to lay some new fiber optic cables for SWM (Stadtwerke München-Munich Utilities) near Dom-Pedro Platz, a very scenic and upscale area in the Nymphenburg Quarter on the west side of Munich.

The work commenced at 7am sharp. It was uneventful. Brotzeit (literally bread time, but it was more like a coffee break) was from exactly 9 to 9:15. The conversation invariably led to the idiosyncrasies of the Bavarians, Sepp being a near-perfect rendition of men in Bavaria, and the other three from northern Germany. It was all in good fun.

At 11:30 the guys decided to take their lunch break and Sepp volunteered to stay with the equipment so the other three workers could duck into an Italian restaurant and grab some pizzas. He had packed a couple of Leberkäse (Bavarian meatloaf) sandwiches which would go down nicely with the two bottles of Helles (Lager) he had. This was his typical lunch.

He finished his sandwiches and one of the beers when he spied an attractive, well-dressed young man sitting on a bench at Dom-Pedro Platz drinking a beer. Sepp, in true Bavarian fashion, preferred to drink beer with another person rather than alone. He grabbed his other beer, locked up the truck and made his way on over to the young man. The sky had quit spitting drizzle for a spell.Autumn Sadness

Sepp approached the young man. He noticed that the young man was wearing a lambskin leather jacket, expensive Italian shoes, and a bouquet of flowers lay next to him on the bench. The young man seemed unaware of his surroundings and was staring at the ground lost in thought.

“Mind if I sit here?” asked Sepp.

The young man looked up vacantly with bloodshot eyes. He looked at Sepp and then at Sepp’s beer. Though there was no reply, Sepp felt from the man’s body language that sitting down wouldn’t cause any friction, and in fact, the man might’ve even wanted Sepp to join him. Sepp sat down and opened his beer with a plank from the bench.

“The weather’s going to be really shitty this weekend,” said Sepp, trying to open the conversation with the most superficial, safe opening he could muster.

“I hadn’t noticed,” came the curt, quiet reply.

“You from around here?” asked Sepp.

“No, but I’ve lived here a few years. You?”

“Originally I’m from Mühldorf. You know it?”

“I’ve heard of it. Never been.”

An older blue-haired woman walked by with her Schnauzer, reaffirming that dogs begin to take on the characteristics of their owners if given ample opportunity. She and her dog looked at the two men. The dog took the lead in seemingly passing judgment on the liquid aspect of the two men’s lunches.

A few seconds later a woman came by pushing a stroller with a cooing baby inside.

“You have any kids?” asked the young man.

“Me? Not that I know of,” said Sepp. “I usually change girlfriends every few years. Whenever a girl mentions anything about starting a family I know it’s a good time to start looking for another girl. You?”

The young man paused for a moment and then spoke.

“A few days ago a woman called me. She knew my name and told me her name was Sabina. She asked if I remembered her – I said I did, though I didn’t. She said we’d hooked up after meeting at Club 089 in late December last year. Said she was carrying my child, she was sure it was mine. She told me that she didn’t want anything from me except to be with her when the baby came. Her brother and mother were going to come from Switzerland to be with her but had had a pretty serious accident on the way to Munich, so they’d be unable to be with her. I told her I would do it. The baby was overdue so the doctors were going to induce labor this morning at around nine. I tried to get into the hospital right over there, but since I didn’t know her last name they couldn’t let me in. The receptionist told me that there were four different Sabinas at the hospital today, and I couldn’t just walk around peeking in different rooms looking for the one with my child.”

“Wow. Can’t you call her?” asked Sepp.

“No. In all of the excitement I forgot to charge my phone and the battery is completely dead. Now I have a child that I know of, but may never know.”

Sepp was alone, like the young man The young man got up and left, his shoulder heaving as he walked away. Sepp was alone now too, left to rue his choice of sitting down next to the young man.

Only a few minutes earlier a baby had been born to a strong, solitary woman named Sabina. Hurt, she’d sworn that she’d never answer any phone calls from the young man, ever. She kept her promise…