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The need to re-evaluate incest in the age of assisted reproductive techniques: Stübing v Germany

Date:31 AUG 2012

Karen Dyer

Lecturer in Law, University of Buckingham:

The mention of 'incest' leads to a sense of revulsion, regardless of whether the context is non- consensual, or true consensual incest between adults. The recent case of Stübing v Germany (App No 43547/08) is an example of this.

Patrick Stübing, was born in Germany in 1976. He was removed from his mother when he was three. They had no subsequent contact until 2000 when he also met his sister for the first time. Their mother died later that year and the two siblings embarked on a consensual sexual relationship, producing four children, three of whom are now in care. Germany criminalises such relationships and Stübing was convicted. At the European Court of Human Rights, Stübing argued that Germany had violated Article 8 of the Convention. However, the Court found that Germany had acted within its margin of appreciation.

This case prompts consideration of societal views on incest. This is particularly pertinent in today’s biotechnological society, with more donor-conceived children born each year, and the consequential increase in opportunities for 'consensual incest' to occur, albeit without the knowledge of the parties concerned.

The author comments that society has to take more responsibility for stopping inadvertent incest occurring, if it finds incest morally repugnant, and suggests an amended to current UK legislation to ensure parents inform their children that they are donor-conceived.

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