The Myth about Legalization of Incest in the West is Misleading

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

  • Incestual relationship with adolescents is a grave crime in all countries;
  • Incest among adults is criminalized in the majority of EU member states;
  • One of the most severe punishments for incestual relationships are provided in the US;
  • Incestual relationship is only prosecuted in Moldova among former Soviet states;
  • Georgia and its neighboring countries, including Russia, do not prosecute incest.

Incest taboo exists in every culture of the world and manifests itself in legal prohibitions of sexual intercourse or marriage among close relatives.

Three types of incestual relationships requiring different treatment are usually distinguished for the purpose of legal regulation: (1) Incestual relationship with adolescents; (2) Incest among adults; (3) marriage between close relatives or family members.
(1)The unacceptability of incestual relationship with adolescents is universally recognized. Laws of almost every country in the world, including EU member states, provide severe punishments for individuals engaging in sexual relations with their close relatives below certain age (under 16-18).

No European country plans to alleviate prohibitions in this field. On the contrary, some of the countries (Belgium, the Czech Republic, Croatia) tend to aggravate sanctions and broaden the scope of prohibitions. For instance, the criminal code of France was amended in 2010 to define every type of incest with adolescents, including non-violent, as rape and provide stronger sanctions.

(2)Incest among adults is also prohibited in most of the countries on the ground of protecting family relations and preventing genetic defects. US laws are exceptionally strict in this respect. Some of the US states provide for life imprisonment and deprivation of parental rights on children born through incest. Incest is illegal between the relatives of direct line of ascent and descent, and biological siblings, as well as second-degree relatives (e.g. nephew, niece, cousins, second cousins) and non-blood relatives (e.g. non-biological siblings, foster children and parents, stepchildren and stepparents).

Incest among adults is illegal in the majority of EU member states. 17 EU countries (Germany, UK, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Cypress, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Finland, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania) punish incest with imprisonment. Legislation protecting adolescents from sexual abuse, including incestual relationship, exists in the remaining 11 countries (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta and Slovenia).

In accordance with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, prohibition of incest among adults does not infringe the European Convention on Human Rights, because it is a justified interference in the right to privacy on the ground of protecting family, health and sexual self-determination of a weaker partner.

In former Soviet states sexual relations among close relatives and family members are only prosecuted in Moldova.

Georgia and in its neighboring countries(Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan) do not prohibit incest among adults.

(3)Almost no country in the world, including EU member states, recognizes marriage between close relatives and family members, although the scope of prohibition varies. US laws are again stricter than anywhere else in this respect. Some of the US states prohibit marriage-like relationship between close relatives let alone marriage is illegal among large group of relatives. This makes it easier to prosecute participants of incestual relationship. It is almost impossible to uncover voluntary sexual intercourse, unless one of the partners report, which is hardly possible. On the other hand, it is relatively easy to prove the fact of marriage-like relationship.

Georgian legislation is less strict in this field. Marriage is illegal between the relatives of direct line of ascent and descent, as well as foster parents and children. In 2007 the Civil Code of Georgia was amended to prohibit marriage between biological and non-biological siblings.


Criminal Prohibition of Incest in International Legal Comparison”, Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (2013) URL:

Case of Stübing v.Germany, European Court of Human Rights,application no. 43547/08 (24.09.2012) URL:{“itemid”:[“001-110314”]}

“Inbred Obscurity: Improving Incest Laws in the Shadow of the Sexual Family”, Harvard Law Review, Vol. 119, No. 8 (Jun., 2006) URL:


Violation: Disinformation


Burjanadze Nino

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