Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Incest and the Law

Written by johnleemk on 9:46:27 am Mar 18, 2007.
Categories: ,

After I wrote about legalising homosexuality, "mich" wrote to ask:

"Any act between two consenting adults should be permitted, provided this act does not infringe on the rights of others."
I agree. And because of this statement too, it is also good to be called that the incestous-relationship btw 2 grown up consenting adults should not be criminalised too, agree?

Incest is a considerably more difficult issue because it is even more reviled than homosexuality. I suppose the interest in incest as an issue crops up because of the case of the German brother and sister who met after being separated at birth and then fell in love.

The trouble with incest, I think, is that if you permit incestuous relationships, you are basically permitting people to reproduce despite incredibly high odds that their children will be physically harmed. (Genetics are a nasty thing for siblings in love.)

On the other hand, one could argue that we allow people with genetically-transmitted diseases to reproduce. Heck, it's not unheard of for deaf couples to specifically attempt to have deaf children just to satisfy themselves, so what's wrong with permitting an incestuous family?

This is a far more tricky issue than homosexuality that has no right or wrong answer. I believe incest is unethical and immoral, but at the same time, provided the effects of the relationship are confined to the two consenting adults, there seems no reason to prohibit it from a legal perspective.

For this reason, I would be tentatively supportive of legalising incestuous relationships. Whether I would support legalising reproduction between closely related consenting adults, however, is a different story.

Here, I would have to err on the side of forbidding reproduction between incestuous couples, barring technology that significantly reduces the likelihood of producing children whose bodies have been irreparably harmed by inbreeding.

Even so, it can be difficult not to sympathise with two people who are clearly in love, and have simply been unfortunate enough to be related by blood. Under normal circumstances, growing up with someone is sufficient to prevent a romantic relationship, but as we live in a more complicated world, there will be more and more cases where family members are separated from a young age, and later fall in love with each other when they are reunited.

This is a question that is not easily resolved. But if we are to err on the side of caution, it seems clear that though we may legalise incestuous relationships, we should be far more cautious about legalising incestuous parenthood.

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