MSPs reject petition to legalise adult incest

Christian Concern 26 January 2016
MSPs rejected the petition asking the Scottish government to amend the law on incest, so that it would no longer apply to consenting adults over the age of 21.

Richard Morris, it is believed, resides in Australia, but he submitted the petition on behalf of a Scottish man who was convicted of committing incest with his daughter.

The petitions committee was legally required to hear Mr Morris’s request, since his petition pertained to a devolved issue. Incest in Scotland is covered under Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act of 1995.

In his petition, Mr Morris claimed the current law on incest is “discriminatory”, and related people’s attitudes toward incest to “bigoted” views on homosexuality.

“Public fears, prejudice and bigotry about ACI [Adult Consensual Incest] are mostly due to ignorance created over many years mostly by the church and church-influenced governments and newspapers, in much the same way as public fears and bigotry about homosexuality were created”, he wrote.

Committee convener Michael McMahon said that it was not in the public interest to pursue a change in the law.

Push for normalisation

Some in other countries, however, have taken a different view. The German Ethics Council in 2014 said that “the fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”

That same year in Australia, a judge said that incest was like homosexuality, which was once considered “unnatural”, but is now widely accepted.

“A jury might find nothing untoward in the advance of a brother towards his sister once she had sexually matured, had sexual relationships with other men and was now ‘available’, not having [a] sexual partner”, he stated.

“If this was the 1950s and you had a jury of 12 men there, which is what you’d invariably have, they would say it’s unnatural for a man to be interested in another man or a man being interested in a boy. Those things have gone.”

Popular culture has also begun to normalise incest. The hit television series Game of Thrones, based upon the novels by George R. R. Martin, has portrayed a twin brother and sister in an incestuous relationship.

BBC’s new adaptation of War and Peace also depicts a brother and sister engaging in sexual behaviour. Andrew Davies, who adapted the classic novel for the BBC, claims he was merely making the relationship more explicit than Leo Tolstoy was able to do because of the cultural norms of his day.

Similarly, Cosmopolitan magazine featured a story in October 2015 about a brother and sister who met as adults and became involved in a sexual relationship. The story of ‘Brian’ and ‘Melissa’, originally published in Good Housekeeping, is presented in sympathetic terms. The article is titled “What it’s like to fall in love with your brother”.
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