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Panel to oppose law on incest.

Bahrain: A move to criminalise incest in Bahrain will be opposed by a parliamentary committee, the GDN has learnt.

That is despite the committee head acknowledging that sexual abuse within families could continue unpunished if victims remained silent.

There is currently no specific law that makes sex between relatives illegal and MPs are due to vote on whether to include it as a crime under the Penal Code.

However, parliament's foreign affairs, defence and national security committee will recommend vetoing the idea on the grounds that such cases should continue being treated as rape - and because of the shame it would bring to families.

That is despite committee chairman Abdulla Bin Howail admitting that authorities would be powerless to penalise incest unless one of those involved reported another to police and that, when incest cases do arise, they rarely make it to court and are dropped "most of the time".

"The judicial system deals with complaints from alleged rape victims, or someone on their behalf, and it doesn't matter if they are aged 12, 16, 18 or above 21 - the legal age of consent," he told the GDN.

"So unless someone comes forward and complains that they have been raped or sexually harassed by a relative, or there is actual evidence, the Public Prosecution can't refer the case to court and most of the time victims end up dropping the case altogether."

Mr Bin Howail said his committee had decided incest was too rare in Bahrain to make it a specific crime, but added that not all members agreed after consultations with the Interior Ministry, the Supreme Council for Women, the National Institution for Human Rights, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and the Labour and Social Development Ministry.

"There is a huge difference in opinion between committee members on the direction that should be taken with incest," he revealed.

"But as a committee we believe that criminalising it as a special case is unnecessary.

"It is not a trend in Bahrain, although we acknowledge it has happened and will happen."

He argued that it was sufficient to penalise offenders as "extreme rape" cases.

"We are not saying that perpetrators will be left off the hook, they will be punished in equal terms as extreme rape, but not as incest," he said.

However, he admitted that it would allow people who rape or sexually abuse a relative to escape punishment if the victim refused to testify.

"In the end, if a father or brother is content with his sick doings and his daughter, son or sister are quiet, then there is nothing much to do," said Mr Bin Howail.

"But specifying incest as a crime is dangerous, considering it would bring damage to the reputation of the whole family.

"Especially nowadays, with how things spread, it will be devastating."

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Feb 21, 2016
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