Incest is defined as human sexual activity between family members or close relatives. The legal definition of incest is the crime of sexual relations or marriage between a man and a woman who are so closely linked by blood or affinity that such activity is prohibited by law.
Incest in the U.S.
In the United States, incest is a statutory crime that is often classified as a felony. Rape and incest are considered separate crimes as mutual consent is required for incest and not for rape. When one person is under the age of consent recognized by law, it is considered rape. Additionally, sexual relations between two people of half-blood are often prohibited and those related by affinities, such as step-parents or in-laws.
State laws on incest vary. The majority of states have laws that make incest illegal. The punishments associated with engaging in incest vary by state. Rhode Island and New Jersey do not currently have any laws against incest between consenting adults but prohibit marriage for incestuous relationships.
Incest Legality Around the World
The legality of incest varies from country to country. In some countries, incest is punishable by the death penalty, such as in Brunei, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan (if same-sex relations). In Afghanistan, incest between consenting adults results in the death penalty in Taliban-controlled territories.
In Italy, incest is only illegal if it provokes public scandal. In this case, it can be punishable from two to eight years in jail.
Twenty-two countries around the world have not criminalized incest. In Spain and Russia, consensual incest is fully legal; however, people who are related as siblings, half-siblings, a stepparent, and a stepchild may not marry.
Incest is also not strictly prohibited under Portuguese law. Additionally, no laws prohibit consenting relatives from having sexual relations in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The people of the Netherlands are allowed to engage in incest as well but cannot get married.
In Greece, incest is illegal for adults, but there is no law prohibiting minors from engaging in incest. In Serbia, Slovenia, and Lithuania, incest is illegal as long as both persons are over 18. In Serbia and Slovenia, incest is illegal if one or both of the person is an underage relative by blood or an underage sibling.
In Israel, incest is legal if both persons are over 21 years old. It is illegal if one or both of the persons is an underage relative by blood or adoption. Incest is also legal in Argentina, Brazil, India, the Ivory Coast, Japan, Latvia, South Korea, Thailand, and Turkey.