An Ana­lys­is Com­mis­sioned by Ger­many’s Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court

A spe­cial sup­ple­ment of the weekly journ­al Die Zeit as well as nu­mer­ous oth­er news­pa­per, ra­dio, and tele­vi­sion re­ports provided ex­tens­ive cov­er­age in 2007 and 2008 of a tra­gic case in­volving sib­lings who had fallen in love: Patrick S. and his sis­ter Susan K., sev­en years young­er and mildly men­tally han­di­capped, grew up sep­ar­ately. He entered a home at the age of three and was then sent to live with an ad­opt­ive fam­ily. She was born after his de­par­ture and re­mained with her moth­er fol­low­ing her par­ents’ di­vorce. The two met in 2000, when Susan was 16 and Patrick 23 years old. Shortly there­after, Patrick moved in with his moth­er and sis­ter. Fol­low­ing the death of the moth­er a short time later, the sib­lings, who con­tin­ued to live to­geth­er, fell in love and had four chil­dren, two of whom are mildly han­di­capped. The three old­est chil­dren were re­moved from their par­ents by the Ju­gen­damt (Youth Wel­fare Of­fice). Patrick was con­victed sev­er­al times of the of­fense of sexu­al in­ter­course between re­l­at­ives as defined in § 173 of the Ger­man Pen­al Code. The last con­vic­tion led to a sen­tence of two-and-a-half years’ im­pris­on­ment – the fact that he vol­un­tar­ily un­der­went ster­il­iz­a­tion did not af­fect the sen­tence. After the judg­ment be­came fi­nal, his law­yer chal­lenged the con­vic­tion of sexu­al in­ter­course between re­l­at­ives be­fore the Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court and moved to have the crim­in­al pro­hib­i­tion of sib­ling in­cest de­clared un­con­sti­tu­tion­al (§ 173 para. 2 sen. 2 Ger­man Pen­al Code).

This case was spec­tac­u­lar not only be­cause of its hu­man di­men­sions and nu­mer­ous oth­er cir­cum­stances but also be­cause it raised ex­plos­ive leg­al is­sues: What leg­al in­terest or in­terests does the stat­utory pro­hib­i­tion of in­cest pro­tect? Re­li­gious val­ues? Mor­al­ity? Ta­boos? Fam­ily? Pub­lic health and/or ge­net­ics? Is the pro­tec­tion of these val­ues by a sec­u­lar crim­in­al law le­git­im­ate, and is the crim­in­al law equipped to ful­fill these tasks? How are com­par­able cases dealt with in for­eign crim­in­al justice sys­tems? How fre­quent is in­ces­tu­ous activ­ity in­volving sib­lings? Is a crim­in­al pro­hib­i­tion ne­ces­sary at all if, as in some coun­tries, in­cest re­mains ta­boo des­pite the ab­sence of such a pro­vi­sion? These ques­tions are ex­plos­ive be­cause they raise fun­da­ment­al ques­tions about the lim­its of a ra­tion­ally jus­ti­fi­able crim­in­al law.

The Max Planck In­sti­tute for For­eign and In­ter­na­tion­al Crim­in­al Law has the ne­ces­sary ex­pert­ise to an­swer such ques­tions, es­pe­cially be­cause of its fo­cuses in the areas of com­par­at­ive crim­in­al law and crim­in­o­logy. Prof. Dr. Hans-Hein­rich Jes­check, founder of the In­sti­tute, em­phas­ized the close ties between these two areas by couch­ing the In­sti­tute’s over­arch­ing goal in terms of unit­ing “crim­in­al law and crim­in­o­logy un­der one roof.” The Fed­er­al Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court thus re­ques­ted the In­sti­tute’s dir­ect­ors to pre­pare a joint ex­pert opin­ion. This re­quest did not in­clude en­ga­ging in an as­sess­ment of the leg­al is­sue of the valid­ity of the in­cest pro­hib­i­tion, which is with­in the ex­clus­ive province of the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court; rather, the ex­pert opin­ion in­volved an­swer­ing an ex­tens­ive list of ques­tions on the com­par­at­ive leg­al, crim­in­o­lo­gic­al, eu­gen­ic, and med­ic­al bases of this leg­al is­sue.

Coun­try Re­port­ers

The fol­low­ing re­search­ers con­trib­uted coun­try re­ports for ana­lys­is in the com­par­at­ive leg­al ex­pert opin­ion:
Aus­traliaGuy Cumes, LL.M. | coun­try re­port in Eng­lish
CanadaDr. Jus­tus Bensel­er | coun­try re­port in Eng­lish
ChileGonzalo Gar­cia Pa­lo­mi­nos and Alf­onso Fco. Pala­cios Huerta, LL.M.
ChinaYang Zhao, LL.M.
Côte d’IvoireDr. Ad­ome Blaise Kou­assi
Den­markProf. Dr. Dr. h.c. Vagn Greve
Eng­land and WalesDr. Susanne For­ster, LL.M.
FranceDr. Peggy Pfützn­er and Dr. Claire Saas
GreeceDr. Irini Kiriakaki, LL.M.
Hun­garyDr. Zsolt Szo­mora
Is­raelDr. Li­at Le­van­on | coun­try re­port in Eng­lish
ItalyDr. Kon­stan­ze Jarv­ers
Neth­er­landsProf. Dr. Di­eter Schaffmeister
Po­landDr. Celina Nowak | coun­try re­port in Eng­lish
Ro­maniaDr. Jo­hanna Rinceanu, LL.M.
Rus­siaDr. Ul­rike Schit­ten­helm
SpainDr. Teresa Manso Porto, mag. iur. comp.
SwedenDr. Dr. h.c. mult. Karin Cornils
Switzer­landProf. Dr. Mar­tin Schubarth
Tur­keyDr. Silvia Tel­l­en­bach
USAEmily Sil­ver­man, J.D. (Berke­ley Law), LL.M. | coun­try re­port in Eng­lish