Countries Where Incest Is Legal 2022

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Incest is defined as human sexual activity between family members or "close relatives," a term that often includes in-laws, step-parents and step-siblings, adopted parents, and half-siblings as well as the usual aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and siblings. Incest is typically considered socially unacceptable and is legally forbidden in many—but not all countries—worldwide. Some countries have no laws pertaining to incest. Others forbid it between minors, but not adults (or vice versa). Still others allow incest but stop short of allowing the participants to get married.

It is worth noting that most countries that have no laws against incest still prohibit the sexual exploitation of minors. In these countries, relationships between an underaged person (or minor) and an adult are generally illegal whether the participants are related or not, regardless of whether consent was given. Therefore, many forms of incest would be illegal not because they are incestuous but because they are considered statutory rape.

Incest in the U.S.

In the United States, laws pertaining to incest vary from state to state. All states have laws that make incest illegal but with a wide assortment of exceptions and/or punishments. For example, Rhode Island prohibits incestuous marriages but has no laws against incest in general. New Jersey tolerates incest provided the participants are at least 12 years of age. In other states, including Idaho, Nevada, and Michigan, incest is not only illegal but can also be punished with life in prison.

State laws typically consider incest a statutory crime and classify it as a felony. Rape and incest are considered separate crimes, as incest includes mutual consent while rape does not. That said, if one participant is under the legal age of consent, the act is generally considered statutory rape (rather than incest) because the underaged participant is legally unauthorized to grant consent.

The legality of incest around the world

Incest laws vary from one country to the next, with punishments ranging from minor to severe. For example, incest is only illegal in Italy if it provokes public scandal, in which case it carries a penalty of two to eight years in jail. On the other extreme, incest is punishable by death in Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan (if same-sex relations).

Twenty-two countries around the world have not criminalized incest. Portuguese law, for example, does not criminalize incest. Additionally, no laws prohibit consenting relatives from having sexual relations in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Incest is also legal in Argentina, Brazil, India, the Ivory Coast, Japan, Latvia, South Korea, Thailand, and Turkey.

In Spain, Netherlands, and Russia, consensual incest is fully legal. However, siblings may not marry, nor may half-siblings or a step-parent and a stepchild. In Serbia, Lithuania, and Slovenia, incest between an adult and a minor is illegal, but the law does not prohibit minors or adults from engaging in incest with partners in the same age category. Israel outlaws incest among minors but declares it legal if both persons are over 21 years old. Perhaps the most unique laws on incest come from Ireland and Germany, where the language forbidding incest specifically addresses male-female pairings—which means incest remains legal for same-sex couples.

List of Countries Where Incest is Legal

In the following countries, incest is legal: Belgium, China, France, Japan, Latvia, Portugal, Russia (marriage prohibited), South Korea, Turkey (marriage prohibited). Incest is legal for adults only in Argentina, Israel (over 21), Ivory Coast, the Netherlands (marriage prohibited), the Philippines (marriage prohibited), and Spain. Incest is legal in Brazil if over 14 and in Thailand if over 15; however, most marriages in these countries are disallowed or prohibited. Incest is legal in Italy unless it provokes public scandal.

In some countries, abortion is legal for adults and legal for minors, but illegal for adults and minors together. These countries include Lithuania, Serbia, and Slovenia. In Germany, incest is legal for same-sex adults (marriage prohibited), but illegal for opposite-sex couples, and illegal but not punishable between minors. Incest between same-sex couples is also legal in Ireland but illegal for opposite-sex couples. In Hong Kong, incest is illegal for close relatives and those under 16, making it legal for distantly related adults.

Incest is not criminalized in Macau, but marriage is prohibited. Incest is technically illegal, but charges can be dropped if all participants are under 18. India does not legally define incest, so it is technically legal; however, it is considered sexual exploitation or rape and is punished accordingly. Both the United States and Australia's incest laws vary by state, but marriage is prohibited in Australia.

Countries Where Incest Is Legal 2022

Country Legality 2022 Population
ChinaYes1,425,887,337
IndiaYes1,417,173,173
United StatesYes338,289,857
BrazilYes215,313,498
RussiaYes144,713,314
JapanYes123,951,692
TurkeyYes85,341,241
ThailandYes71,697,030
FranceYes64,626,628
South KoreaYes51,815,810
SpainYes47,558,630
ArgentinaYes45,510,318
Ivory CoastYes28,160,542
NetherlandsYes17,564,014
BelgiumYes11,655,930
PortugalYes10,270,865
IsraelYes9,038,309
SerbiaYes7,221,365
SingaporeYes5,975,689
LithuaniaYes2,750,055
SloveniaYes2,119,844
LatviaYes1,850,651
LuxembourgYes647,599
PakistanNo235,824,862
NigeriaNo218,541,212
EthiopiaNo123,379,924
IranNo88,550,570
TanzaniaNo65,497,748
South AfricaNo59,893,885
ItalyNo59,037,474
UgandaNo47,249,585
SudanNo46,874,204
AfghanistanNo41,128,771
PolandNo39,857,145
CanadaNo38,454,327
Saudi ArabiaNo36,408,820
MalaysiaNo33,938,221
AustraliaNo26,177,413
TaiwanNo23,893,394
ZambiaNo20,017,675
ChileNo19,603,733
SomaliaNo17,597,511
South SudanNo10,913,164
SwedenNo10,549,347
Czech RepublicNo10,493,986
GreeceNo10,384,971
United Arab EmiratesNo9,441,129
AustriaNo8,939,617
SwitzerlandNo8,740,472
Hong KongNo7,488,865
DenmarkNo5,882,261
NorwayNo5,434,319
LiberiaNo5,302,681
New ZealandNo5,185,288
IrelandNo5,023,109
EritreaNo3,684,032
EstoniaNo1,326,062
BhutanNo782,455
BruneiNo449,002
IcelandNo372,899

Countries Where Incest Is Legal 2022

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