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.

The Center of the World Is Germany

Geographically Germany is in the middle. It may be socially as well.

Geographically Germany is in the middle. It may be socially as well.

Germany. Just the name itself is enough to form an opinion. Perhaps no other country in Western Europe conjures up so many diverse and divergent opinions of what this land is. It is unquestionably, and has been for centuries, the center of Europe. And it may just very well be the center of the world.

Germany is the heart of Europe. Nothing that is important in Europe over the last 1,000 years has been decided without the Germanic peoples’ consultation, concordance or confrontation. It has been at various times an economic powerhouse, a well of enlightenment, a feared military juggernaut, and now a pacifist.

Primitive Beginnings

In its earliest years, the tribes that would unite to form Germany were overshadowed by the stronger, more organized Roman empire (which seems inconceivable if one looks at Italian politics today). When the Vandals (a Germanic tribe) sacked Rome in 455, the term ‘Barbarians’ had already been established. We have the word ‘vandalism’ as well. Common contemporary thinking at that time perpetuated by St. Augustine and the Catholic Church was that the sacking of Rome plunged Western Europe into darkness.

Professor George Brooks, a Medievalist from Valencia College, in Orlando, Florida, has spent his whole career trying to dispel this myth. In fact, he says, the period after the Roman Empire’s collapse was one of incredible progress. The term ‘Dark Ages’ is a misnomer. Dr. Brooks does admit that in the early years after the fall of Rome, the uncertainty surely made the population of western Europe uneasy, and for things to appear ‘dark’.

It is cliché, but Germany was forged in blood and steel

Germany was the battleground for the world's first world war

Germany was the battleground for the world’s first world war

The unification of the order and structure of the Catholic Church with Charlemagne’s military might (his main palace was in Aachen) set Europe on a path which would see it eventually overcome the difficulties presented by its enemies and the elements. German armies, under the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire, would be the sword of St. Paul, while the Catholic Church would be the Bible. This continued for the next 800 years plus, until the schism created by (yet another) German, Martin Luther, tore Germany (and Europe) apart.

Luther’s questioning of the Catholic Church led to the Thirty Years War, and an almost inconceivable destruction of Germany. It engulfed nearly every country of Europe at the time, and was for all intents and purposes Europe’s First World War.

Estimates from historians Marvin Perry and Jackson Spielvogel place the total number of Germans killed at 40% of the population in rural areas, some may have even seen numbers as high as 60%. The general agreed-upon figure is about 33% of the total population. Economically, it took until the late 19th-century before Germany fully recovered.

The Iron Chancellor put Germany on the road to power

The Iron Chancellor put Germany on the road to power

By the time Germany recovered, it promptly embarrassed France in the Franco-Prussian War, marching into Paris in less than 10 months from the opening of hostilities. France, in a rare moment of collective clairvoyance rarely seen since the French Revolution, had attempted to stop the unification of the different German kingdoms. Perhaps it recognized the danger of a more powerful country on its eastern border or it may have been unwilling to share the globe’s colonies, which it and Great Britain had been divvying up for three centuries.

Whatever the case, France felt more than many the brunt of German steel and technical ingenuity.

That power was sometimes misused, causing horrible damage to Europe and the world

That power was sometimes misused, causing horrible damage to Europe and the world

Germany twice unleashed these aspects again in the 20th Century, decimating Europe. Though the reasons for the two World Wars are more complicated than most realize, Germany has been, and will continue to be, blamed for both conflicts.

After near total destruction (which is another trait of the Germans – following a path to its absolute conclusion), Germany today has reconstituted itself into a world power. But with that comes the responsibility of trying to influence others to follow your lead.

Germany is the engine of the EU

Today Germany uses its economic muscle to influence decisions in Brussels, and the greater world

Today Germany uses its economic muscle to influence decisions in Brussels, and the greater world

Talks of any significance between developing countries normally have a seat reserved for Germany. Germany again finds itself in the position of being the driving force of Europe, much to the chagrin of Great Britain and France. But it cannot escape this fact, though it has little desire for the limelight.

Germany’s days as a military power on the field of battle are behind it. Its battles in the future will be fought over economic, environmental and societal issues. Germany can no longer think of itself as only an economic power. It must begin to accept its role in the world as a leader. The world is looking for a counterbalance to the USA – why not one of its strongest allies?

The most optimistic forecasts have Germany at the forefront of worker‘s rights and conditions, green energies and technologies, and integrating the numerous nationalities and ethnicities that have recently made Germany their new home.

Germany, with its long and storied history is poised to ‘show’ the rest of the world how things are done. Beyond building high-end products that the world desires, Germany is trying to fashion itself as a most tolerant, organized, and (environmentally) friendly nation.

Plans for carbon neutral cities are in the works. Much work needs to be done, but stakes are in the ground.

After World War II, few would have expected Germany to have recovered so spectacularly and some, like the Soviet Union (Russia), did all that they could to keep Germany from realizing that recovery.

Germany is not heaven on earth (Bavaria is even closer), but it is better here than in many other countries. Neither Germany nor Germans would ever claim such a thing (Bavarians WOULD). Others might just do it for them.

Note: The distance from Munich to Tokyo is 9,399 km, from Munich to San Francisco it’s 9,446 km, and from Munich to Capetown it’s 9,105 km. That’s pretty damned central.