Iceland - Stop Jailing lovers for Adult Consensual Incest

Iceland - Stop Jailing lovers for Adult Consensual Incest

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CIAO Rights Europe started this petition to J贸n Gunnarsson Minister of Justice for Iceland

We appeal to the Icelandic Parliament to ask the Icelandic Government to amend the law against incest, so that it does not apply in cases where both participants are consenting adults. Moreover, for those who were convicted under such circumstances, that any sentences should be repealed in the light of a legislative amendment.


The law in its present form is inappropriate, unfair, ineffective and discriminatory. The existing incest law in Iceland punishes consensual incest with incarceration and thus violates the spirit and intent of the UN human rights provisions and the spirit and purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular the right to personal and sexual autonomy;

"Article 200[105] of the Icelandic Penal Code prohibits incestuous relations between relatives of both ascending and descending line, and between half or full siblings, and (1) imposes for the ascending relative (for example father, uncle, grandfather etc.): imprisonment up to a maximum of 12 years if the descending relative is between 15 and 17 years old, imprisonment up to a maximum of 8 years if 18 years and older; (2) for siblings a maximum 4 years' imprisonment鈥攊f the half or full siblings were under 18 years old, they might be cleared of any charge. " (1)

Public fears, prejudices and bigotry towards the adult consensual incest (ACI) are largely due to ignorance, which for many years has been caused mainly by church and church-influenced governments and newspapers, much like public fears and bigotry about homosexuality. As an indication of the extent of church's influence on government in Iceland, until about the middle of the 20th century the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of Iceland was known as the "Ministry of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs". (8)

Iceland's incest law is based on four points: 1. public opinion; 2. Protection of the child and other family members; 3 The maintenance of family solidarity and cohesion; 4 The genetic argument

1- Public Opinion.

Public opinion has changed dramatically since the 1980s. According to Wikipedia, "Same-sex marriage in Iceland has been legal since 27 June 2010. A bill providing for a gender-neutral marriage definition was passed by the Althing on 11 June 2010. No members of Parliament voted against the bill, and public opinion polls suggested that the bill was very popular. Iceland became the ninth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage."

Many Western countries have passed similar laws that reflect the liberalization of attitudes to sex and relationships. Indeed, France and many others who adopted the Napoleonic Code legalized adult consensual incest (ACI) and homosexuality more than 200 years ago.
In the past, fornication, adultery, divorce, prostitution, abortion, homosexuality were either sins according to the church or illegal or both. In most modern countries, most of these activities are now legal, if not moral. People are no longer imprisoned for breaking religious taboos. More people think scientifically. Iceland has a national church, but less than half of Icelanders consider themselves regular church-goers. A poll conducted in 2013 showed that only 10% of Icelanders consider themselves 鈥渃onvinced atheists鈥, while 57% said they consider themselves to be 鈥渞eligious鈥 in some form or another and 31% said they were 鈥渘ot religious鈥. (2)

In recent decades, attitudes to human rights have changed dramatically. Notably because of almost univeral education and access to the Internet there is increased awareness of United Nations human rights law, a broader understanding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, in particular, of the right to personal and sexual autonomy; Fewer people are as moralistic and judgmental as before, and more people are better educated, more traveled and more tolerant of different cultures and different types of sexuality than ever before. People in general demand and expect greater freedom of thought and choice, not less.

Assertions that the incest law is based on public opinion are doubtful and not supported by any evidence. As with previously taboo adult sexual relationships such as homosexual, interracial relationships) incest was made a taboo and stigmatized, mainly by the church. Governments often purporting to be modern, secular and democratic have frequently been dominated and influenced by a church lobby and in fact, Iceland is one of 16 countries in Europe that each has a 'national church' further indicating the extent of church influence over government. And seven of those 16 countries, (Iceland, Denmark, Estonia , the Faroe Islands, Latvia, Norway and Sweden each have Evangelical Lutheranism as their national religion. ( Several name their state religion after their state such as 'the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, while others just call themselves after state and and leave out 'Evangelical Lutheran' from the title. Sweden for example had a national church called the 'Church of Sweden. Of the 7 European states with Evangelical Lutheranism as their National Church, 2 ( Estonia and Latvia) do not make Adult Sexual Incest a crime.
Agnes Margr茅tard贸ttir Sigur冒ard贸ttir (born 19 October 1954) is an Icelandic prelate who is the current Bishop of Iceland. She is the first woman to be elected a Bishop of the Church of Iceland, (3) also called 'The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland (Icelandic: Hin evangel铆ska l煤terska kirkja), also called the National Church (Icelandic: 脼j贸冒kirkjan), is the officially established Christian church in Iceland." (4)

"The church has historical connections with the other Nordic churches including the Church of Sweden, Church of Norway, Church of Finland, and its former parent church, the Church of Denmark. All Nordic state churches are of the Lutheran Christian tradition." (3)

For example, the very introduction of Lutheranism into Iceland brought harsh punishments for incest."St贸rid贸mur (Icelandic pronunciation: 鈥媅藞stou藧r瑟藢tou藧m蕪r胎], English: The Grand Judgment) was a set of laws passed by the Icelandic parliament, Al镁ingi, in the summer of 1564, following the adoption of Lutheranism in Iceland."
"The laws introduced harsher punishments for various moral crimes, such as incest and having children out of wedlock, and placed the executive power of meting out punishment and collecting fines in the hands of the emissaries of the Danish King." (5)

"An example of the punishment for incest (besides beheading for men and drowning for women, was being sent to prison to do hard labour.
In the years 1683-1687, however, a legal rule was introduced in the Danish Kingdom, stating that people who had been sentenced to death could have their case sent to the king himself. He would then decide whether they should be executed or sent to prison for life, where they were put to extremely hard work.
By 1730, executions for incest had become an exception and imprisonment for life the rule - although, for many, this may have been worse than death. The conditions were terrible and of the eighteen Icelandic prisoners who came to Copenhagen-prisons in 1756, only four were alive one year later. (9)

Icelandic public opinion about adult consensual incest and incest laws in modern times is likely to be more advanced than in previous times before advent of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the obligations it places on all states to respect human rights and equality.
Despite religious and other conservative forces, the law and the media and education systems, conflating healthy, happy incestuous consenting adults (i.e. (non abusive) with cases of abuse, coercion, the child abuse sort of incest and exloiting the ambiguity of the word incest to give the public the false impression that all incestuous acts were heinous and had negative impact on society, it is likely that many Icelandic people, having access to the internet and greater travel opportunities have been made aware that many countries do not find ACI such a threat that it needs to be criminalized, and that for example, French law has allowed ACI in France since 1810. This fact, and many others that show incest is not the demon to society that many countries make out that it is, were once hidden from the public. But today people are better informed and no longer so easily brainwashed into believing that all countries criminalize adult consensual incest, or impose incestophobic abuse and torture on CIAO people such as unfair Imprisonment and deprivation of their loved ones. More and more people no longer believe that such state-sanctioned abuse is "normal" or that incest phobia is "normal. " France and about 40 other countries do not criminalise ACI and don't punish people for having consensual adult consanguineous relationships. Fourteen members of the thirty NATO countries do not criminalize ACI.

2 - protection of the child and other family members

By definition, ACI does not involve anyone under the legal age of consent. Children are protected from sexual and other abuse by other laws, and there is no need for double criminalization of the offense. In other countries, such as England and Australia, the crime of "child sexual abuse" has replaced the more stigmatizing and psychologically harmful term "incest". Victims of child sexual abuse do not benefit from stigmatization associated with the taboo word "incest". (Another reason why the current law needs to be reformed).

Punishing ACI /CIAO couples does nothing to protect the child or other family members. If a parent goes to prison for the ACI , it means that if there were small children in the family, they have lost the family income from the family income earner, and their carers. If adult siblings are involved in ACI, how can their imprisonment protect their family? The two are punished for being in love with each other. Jail sentences punish the entire family and splits them up by denying them the income they couldpotentially have earned as two working parents who are now sent to jail, punished and humiliated for the victimless crime of being in love. Jail does not protect a family from the stigma, embarrassment and humiliation of being linked to family members convicted of ACI.

3 - The maintenance of solidarity and cohesion of the family

A New Zealand Legislative Commission cites as a reason for the continuation of the incest law in New Zealand
Integrity of the family
The integrity of the family is the element that must be added to the above considerations to justify the prohibitions. The United Nations stated in 1994 that the "family is the fundamental unit of society". It is critical to the development and maintenance of its individual members. [318]

For most people, a family is a place where they want to belong and feel safe, where they are accepted, recognized, loved and cared for. The most important requirement, however, is that society ensures that families are stable and healthy, and that members assume responsibility for each other, as they are the most effective defense against marginalization, frustration and distress. In times of crisis, social tensions and personal problems, the first place where help is usually sought is within the family. The family has the potential to be the best institution for the education of children and the intimacy between adults.

Incest threatens the security and stability of the family unit. Marriage in close family relationships is considered undesirable for the same reasons. The Scottish Law Commission, in its report on the law of incest, has found that incest can cause psychological or other direct harm, that family trust collapses, and that sometimes can lead to disruptive rivalries. [319]

299 These terms apply equally to families linked by an adoptive relationship and those related by consanguinity. (6)

Our answer to this is that there is no evidence that ACI interferes with family cohesion or solidarity any more than fornication, promiscuity, divorce, homosexuality, prostitution, adultery or even unemployment do. All these acts are no longer subject to criminal punishment, as they may be under the old church law. Incest was a sin according to the Christian church, and according to church law, it was punished by various penances and "dispensations" (or "fines").

"Same-sex marriage in Iceland has been legal since 27 June 2010. A bill providing for a gender-neutral marriage definition was passed by the Althing on 11 June 2010. No members of Parliament voted against the bill, and public opinion polls suggested that the bill was very popular. Iceland became the ninth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. "
Thus there are many types of marriage these days, including same-sex marriage where children would possibly experience the love and care from partners in a 'non-normative' form of marriage. If same-sex marriage is deemed not to undermine the 'maintenance of solidarity and cohesion of the family' then why should ACI marriage?

Jealousy occurs in all kinds of relationships. In today's society, a married woman can legitimately begin to have sexual relationships with several other married or unmarried men and / or women, and her husband has no recourse, no matter how jealous he may feel. And vice versa. Parents may even feel terribly hurt when children get divorced, become prostitutes, decide to abort a potential grandchild, or engage in same-sex marriage, and swear never to have children. Life is full of pain, but that's no excuse to deny people their human rights or prevent them from starting a family with the person they're in love with, even if they are a family member. ACI couples sometimes have no other living relatives. They form a family. They deserve the respect and protection contained in the following two sentences: "The United Nations established in 1994 that the" family is the fundamental unit of society. It is critical to the development and maintenance of its individual members."

4 - The genetic argument

The criminalization of ACI sexual relations because of a supposedly higher risk of birth defects in children of ACI parents does not stand up to critical reasoning.

According to Dr. James A Roffee Paper (Incest in Scots Law: Missed Opportunities in the New Zealand Law Commission Review),

The genetic argument has been judged and disregarded in England and Wales. A number of reasons supporting such a conclusion include: that genetics was not used as a justification in the past; that there are great doubts about the greatly increased risk of a variety of Illnesses that would justify an offense, and it would not matter to the achievement of the goals of protecting family and children, if the incest law were justified by genetic defects of potential offspring and thus overriding the principle of sexual autonomy, this would not just be one relatively remote problem, but also has the added effect of making a mistake caused to offspring illegal. "

"Since all mating couples have a 2-3% chance of having a child with a birth defect (consanguineous couples are only marginally higher), the consistency of the law would criminalize "all bad fruit-producing sexual intercourse" and would thus criminalize a large number of sexual acts that produces children with birth defects. It would, of course, be unfair to convict the parents of the 6% of children born with birth defects every year worldwide." So why lock up a tiny number of people in ACI relationships who are only slightly more likely to have a child with a birth defect than someone in the general population?

The above-mentioned New Zealand Law Commission document mentions the genetic argument as the reason for the continuation of the incest law in New Zealand, but ends with this approval:
"Logically, genetics can not be the sole determinant, because contraception can prevent the birth of children in such relationships." (7)

Law professor Joachim Renzikowski said: "Criminal law is not there to protect morality."
"In countries where the offense had been abolished, there had been no increase in incest."
"You can not protect a child from the way it is conceived, otherwise there are many high-risk groups that should be banned from having children: women of advanced age, smokers, alcoholics or people with relatively common hereditary diseases, such as cystic fibrosis. "In the fall of Leipzig, incest did not destroy a family, it only started (them) in the first place," says Renzikowski. "The rule of law does not collapse if we show a little grace."


There are no valid reasons to sharply discriminate against the ACI section of the Community on the basis of: 1. public opinion; 2. Protection of the child and the family 3. Solidarity of the family and the community 4. Argument of genetic safety.

The Icelandic incest law perpetuates superstitious, bigoted traditional incestophobic convictions, and in its present form its continuation is not justified. The current incest law in Iceland is ineffective in that firstly, :
it cannot protect children or adults in a family mistreated by a family member,
secondly: it maltreats adult children who were in a mutually agreeable adult incestuous relationship with another adult family member by contributing to the torture of separation, arrest, persecution, imprisonment, loss of access to children, loss of access to each other, loss of family and friends, careers, family homes and reputation.

The law punishes consensual adult incest unnecessarily and unfairly, thereby violating the right to sexual autonomy for all consenting adults accepted in other developed countries.

The law of incest in Icelandic law should be reformed so that ACI is no longer a crime.

The law against incest should be repealed. There are other laws that protect children from abuse and, in any case, incest laws should not apply in cases where participants are both consenting adults.


(9) J贸nsson, M. "Incest in Iceland 1500-1900". University of Victoria. Retrieved 6 January 2016

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