All 50 United States and the District of Columbia have made incest, even when consensual, illegal. Yet, in Europe, incest is not always a crime.
As a recent article by the Associated Press noted France, Spain, and Portugal do not prosecute for crimes of incest for consenting adults, and that Romania is considering decriminalizing consensual incest. Romania is currently reforming its entire criminal code, and in doing so is considering decriminalizing incest between consenting adults. As it now exists, Romania considers ALL FORMS of incest punishable for up to 7 years in prison. The change is being contemplated by Romania’s Justice Ministry to become more legally similar to some other European Union members.
Justice Ministry legal expert Valerian Cioclei, as quoted in the Associated Press, states: “Not everything that is immoral has to be illegal. We cannot help these people by turning them into criminals and punishing them.”
What am I missing? It’s not the law, in this case, that would be turning these people into criminals, it is their actions. A murderer, for example, doesn’t need a conviction to be a murderer. And yes, while we might not necessarily be helping these criminals by punishing them, we certainly are helping society, at large, in validating that certain actions, whether moral or immoral, are illegal, period.
Thankfully, it seems like Romania will resist. The Associated Press notes that strong opposition exists among some lawmakers in the ruling coalition and that newspaper articles in Romania have criticized the proposed change. The Ministry’s response is that “incest cannot be stopped with criminal sanctions, but with medical and social measures, because incest is based on pathological factors.” While I agree that incest may be based on pathological factors, that does not mean it cannot be stopped with criminal sanctions nor does it mean that it should not be punished. Many would argue the same exact thing for many other disorders that cause people to act in illegal ways. Where do we draw the line?