Pressure grows on France to make incest illegal

France is under pressure to ban incest and bring its laws in line with other European countries as it unveiled a landmark report based on the testimonies of thousands of people who say they suffered abuse.

Under French law, incest is banned only if children are involved.

The legislation is a remnant of the French Revolution, which in 1791 scrapped what was seen as the Christian-inspired morality laws of the ancient regime regarding crimes like incest, blasphemy and sodomy.

In April last year, new legislation raised the age of consent for incestuous relationships to 18. And in January, the French government announced its intention to criminalise incestuous relationships even when both parties were over 18. Cousins would still be allowed to marry and ministers are yet to confirm whether step-families would be included, as they were in the April 2021 law.

“Whatever the age, you don’t have sexual relations with your father, your son or your daughter,” said Adrien Taquet, the secretary of state for child protection. “It is not a question of age, it is not a question of consenting adults. We are fighting against incest. The signals must be clear.”

No such legislation has since been passed. However, the government on Wednesday announced it was further tightening up laws on “incestuous sexual violence” against minors by automatically stripping those found guilty of the crime of their parental authority – currently, a judge must rule on whether a parent should lose that authority.

‘We’re in a process’

The change was a key recommendation of the independent commission on incest and sexual violence against women, which released a major report based on 16,400 testimonies on Wednesday, but it continues to fall far short of the outright ban on incest found in most European countries.

Laurent Boyer, chairman of child protection charity Les Papillons and a member of the independent commission, said the government was moving in the right direction.

“We’re not there yet but are in a process,” he told The Telegraph.

“Incest is socially forbidden but not legally forbidden and it is important to make the two coincide,” he said. “[A sexual relationship] between a parent and a child always involves a form of control even when the child has reached adulthood, which is why incest is a specific act that requires specific legislation.”

The issue was raised in profile last year when a bestselling book claimed that Olivier Duhamel, 71, a well-known political pundit, had sexually abused his teenage step-son in the 1980s. He admitted the allegations but did not face prosecution because of the French statute of limitations.

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