Aarhus siblings' love child sets off incest debate
Enhedslisten says government should change "old fashioned" laws and professor argues that sometimes inbreeding can be a good thing
Some politicians and professors contend that the government shouldn't interfere with sexual relationships even those between family members (Photo: Colourbox)
The recent case of a brother and sister in the city of Aarhus who said that they are in love and have a five-month-old child together has raised a national debate about sibling sex. The couple, who share the same father but have different mothers, face jail time for violating Denmark’s current statute prohibiting incest and inbreeding.
Far-left party Enhedslisten said Denmark should look at decriminalising incest.
“It is not the government’s job to interfere in who should have children with whom,” party spokesperson Pernille Skipper told Politiken newspaper. “It is a grotesque and old-fashioned approach to sex and families.”
The possibility of passing on genetic defects and damaging the social order have been the main reasons cited for making it illegal for siblings to have sex and produce offspring. But Niels Tommerup, a professor of genetics at the University of Copenhagen, said that mutations resulting from inbreeding can be both positive and negative.
"Our focus is always on the negative consequences like diseases and malformations," he told Information newspaper. “But positive mutations help develop the species.”
Tommerup said that mutations like those that occur due to inbreeding can be “biologically positive”.
“It is hard to imagine that there would be the formation of new species without some form of inbreeding,” he said.
Tommerup would not go as far as changing the law prohibiting sex between brother and sister, however. He recommended that family sex get no closer than cousins.
He said that the famous Danish blue eyes are a mutation that could only have occurred via inbreeding sometime in history.
“If inbreeding is banned, the possibility of promoting new, positive variants could be lost,” he said.
Vagn Greve, a law professor at Copenhagen Business School, would like to see even more taboos removed. Greve said there is “no logical reason” that sex between parents and their children should be against the law.
"In my view, we should decriminalise sex between father and daughter as long as they are both adult and the relationship is voluntary,” Greve told metroXpress newspaper. “There is no reason to treat the biological family different from the social family, but the age limit should be 18 or 20-years-old.”
Greve said that sex among immediate family members has been legal in countries like Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and France for 200 years, and that there is no evidence that it has damaged either families or society.
Currently, section 210 of the Danish Penal Code prohibits "sexual intercourse with a descendant" and is punishable by up to six years in prison.
According to Greve, arguments for maintaining the ban on sibling sex and sex between parents and their adult children do not hold up. He compared them to past laws that banned homosexuality and infidelity.
"These are moral questions and it is not the government’s job to interfere with the sexual relationships of adults,” he said.
NOTE: This article was updated on 5.11.12 at 21:50 in response to a clarification from Enhedslisten that the party has not called for legalising sex between siblings or parents and their children