A judge in Australia has been criticized after saying incest may no longer be a taboo and that the community may now accept consensual sex between adult siblings.
Judge Garry Neilson, from the district court in the state of New South Wales, likened incest to homosexuality, which was once regarded as criminal and “unnatural” but is now widely accepted.
He said incest was now only a crime because it may lead to abnormalities in offspring but this rationale was increasingly irrelevant because of the availability of contraception and abortion.
“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,” the judge said.
“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.”
Judge Neilson made the comments during the trial of a brother charged with raping his younger sister. The man has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting his sister when she was 10 or 11 years old in 1973 or 1974 but has pleaded not guilty to charges relating to sex they had in 1981, when she was 18 and he was 26.
“By that stage they are both mature adults,” the judge said.
“The complainant has been sexually awoken, shall we say, by having two relationships with men and she had become ‘free’ when the second relationship broke down. The only thing that might change that is the fact that they were a brother and sister but we’ve come a long way from the 1950s – when the position of the English Common Law was that sex outside marriage was not lawful.”
The comments were labelled misogynistic and “completely disgraceful” by Sally Dowling, the crown prosecutor, who has asked an appeal court to appoint another judge.
“The reference to abortion is particularly repellent,” she said.
Dr Cathy Kezelman, an advocate for preventing child sex abuse, said incest was horrific, regardless of the ages of those involved.
“The relational betrayal of the horrors of incest between a brother and sister of any age is abhorrently criminal,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.