Lifting the Veil on Incest: The Historical Development of the Offence

By James A. Roffee.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper presents an innovative analysis and
explanation for the continued existence of incest laws.
Legislation prohibiting incest is analysed using a New
Legal Realist methodology. The research has identified a
functional use of incest laws and opaque legal reasoning.
Governments and pressure groups have used politically
expedient arguments to legislate against incest. The paper
argues that in addition to the prima facie reasons given
for the offence, a secondary set of operative reasons can
be identified. The dissonance is the product of competing
social interests; incest is an example where the reasons
openly stated for the offence are disjointed from socio-
historical context which actually informed the change in
law. Against this background the continued criminalisation
of ‘incest’ within a modern legislative framework is
inherently questionable as is the ability of individuals to
engage within a deliberative democracy.

Keywords: Incest, Criminalisation, New Legal Realism, Deliberative Democracy, Familial Sex Offences, Sexual Offences

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 10, pp.297-312. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 661.334KB).

James A. Roffee

Researcher, School of Law, University of Leicester, Leicester, Leicestershire, UK

Anniversary Scholar in Law, University of Leicester. Chair of Incest and Sexual Abuse Survivors Trust, Nottingham. This research has been conducted in pursuance of a doctoral thesis at the University of Leicester focusing on the continued existence of laws prohibiting incest within Great Britain. The thesis examines the socio-political reasons for variations in incest laws from Biblical to modern times. This article was written following the award of the Canon Symonds Memorial Scholarship from St Deiniol’s Library, Hawarden. Previously at the University of Oxford, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and King’s College, University of London. Research interests include legal consistency through a law in context approach, jurisprudential application and new legal realist legislative analysis.


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