15-year-old may have a sexual relationship with her 47-year-old uncle, German court rules


In a controversial case the district appeal court in Brandenburg, Germany, has ruled that a young girl may continue her sexual relationship with her uncle. The ruling, made on 24 March 2016, has only just come to light and has sparked intense debate on Germany’s family law.

“The court does not offer any opinion on the nonjudicial question of whether a 47-year-old married man should return the love of a 14-year-old fired by adolescent affection and enthusiasm,” the finding read. It also stated it did not necessarily condone the behaviour of the girl (now 15) and her uncle.

But it indicated that as the girl was over 14 her wishes had to be taken into account.

"The relationship may be socially unacceptable but it is not covered by criminal law. Therefore it cannot be categorically forbidden,” the court continued.

The girl, named only as Josephine, was just 14 when she and her uncle fled the country last year. A police search for the pair was halted after she refused to end the relationship.

According to a German newspaper Bild the man, an architect named as Gerrit H, is her uncle. They fled in his Caravelle microbus after he’d told a friend, named as Hans H, that he wanted to get away for a few days because of “tension with his wife” and he would pick up the vehicle which he’d parked at the friend’s house. At face value this wasn’t a strange conversation as Gerrit is married and he and his wife have two kids. Meanwhile Josephine allegedly packed sun cream, her ID and clothes in a blue backpack on the morning of 6 March as if she was going to school. But she never turned up for classes.

One of her schoolfriends was aware of her secret relationship with her uncle. When Josephine’s parents confronted the friend that afternoon when their daughter hadn’t arrived home, she admitted the relationship between the runaway and her uncle had been going on for 18 months.

Josephine’s dad, Gerhard, initially dismissed the couple’s disappearance as a mistake and said the family believed the relationship between his brother-in-law and his daughter was a “normal uncle-niece relationship”.

She’d even once introduced her parents to a cute boyfriend who was her own age. Little did they know it was just a smokescreen.

The couple were eventually traced to the south of France. Josephine’s parents sought a court order against her uncle on the grounds that the contact between them would harm her wellbeing. But the court found breaking contact between the two could seriously damage the teen’s social, emotional and mental development. According to Bild newspaper, Gerrit H could be punished if he had sex with Josephine before she turned 14. Dr Andreas Fricke told the newspaper it would amount to sexual abuse of a minor and could lead to 10 years’ imprisonment. If they had sex after her 14th birthday, it could amount to exploitation, which is punishable by a jail sentence of up to three years. The legal age of consent in Germany, and many other European countries, is 14.

“But if the girl went with him of her own free will, no crime is involved,” he said.

Berlin psychiatrist Dr Werner Platz says Josephine probably feels Gerrit recognises and appreciates her.

He says the case is similar to many others in which an older man subjugates a young girl. It doesn’t bother the man that he’s “stealing” the girl’s youth.

It’s easy to win the admiration of young girls, Dr Platz says. He mentions cheap tricks that can be used to tell victims what they want to hear, such as, “You’re all I have. You have to stay with me forever.”


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