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Article 271 of the criminal code explicitly outlaws sexual relations between parents and children, or between siblings.
But Justice Department spokesman Folco Galli says there’s a limit to just what the law should regulate:
GALLI: “Incest continues to be a taboo in our society, but it’s not up to criminal law to stop every morally reprehensible aspect of behaviour. Rather, the law should be for punishing behaviour that’s particularly socially damaging.”
The law’s been taking several small steps in this direction already. Ten years ago, the civil code was revised to allow marriages between aunts and nephews or uncles and nieces. But incestuous relationships between parents and children or siblings heighten the possibility of genetic disorders in their offspring.
Anita Rauch is professor of medical genetics at the University of Zurich.
RAUCH: “That could be very severe disorders with early dieing of the children or severe handicaps—physically but also mentally. I mean if it’s first degree relationships—full siblings, or father-daughter or something—about 30 percent of the children have really severe inborn problems”.
Nevertheless, Rauch doesn’t agree the law should stop these relationships :
RAUCH: “Eugenics should not be used to justify such a law. It’s open to the people to decide if they take such risks or not. There are many couples that have a high risk for genetic disorders and it’s still their own decision if they want to have children or not.”
This isn’t the government’s first attempt at rescinding the laws on incest.
In fact, the issue’s popped up periodically since the 1980s. Each time though uproar among the cantons or among the population has derailed the plan.
Spokesman Folco Galli says it’s too soon to know if anything will be different this time around.
GALLI: “It’s hard for us to say in advance how it would be received. One thing that’s certain though, is that Switzerland wouldn’t be alone. Incestous relationships between adults are legal in a number of countries, according to a study by the Max Planck Institute, including France, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Turkey, China, the Ivory Coast and in three U.S. states”
Political parties, cantons and interest groups have all weighed in on the draft law.
The Justice Department will issue a report summarizing what they think of the idea this spring.
—With reporting by Jo Fahy