Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?
What’s the craziest law on the planet? There’s plenty of competition
PEOPLE LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT
the idiotic legislation that their country and others possess. But when looking further into these supposed laws, it soon becomes clear that many don’t really exist at all, or have long since been repealed, or are phrased in a way that at first seems crazy but, in fact, makes sense.
There is, of course, plenty of absurd legislation that turns out to
be genuinely absurd. So it’s worth sorting out the genuine crazy laws from the ones that are crazy but aren’t real laws … and from those that are real laws but which turn out not to be crazy.
So first up is the widely held notion that it is illegal in France to name a pig Napoleon. It’s certainly true that there was a French law from 1881 that forbade offensive mockery of
the head of state during his time in office. But the law was only passed 60 years after the end of Emperor Napoleon’s reign – and 11 years after his nephew Napoleon III was deposed – so it could never have applied to pigs called Napoleon while a Napoleon ruled.
In any case, the law was repealed in July 2013 after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a protester’s rights had been abused in 2008 when he was fined $45 for “offensive mockery” of then-President Nicolas Sarkozy by calling him “a jerk”.
On the other hand, it really is legal in France to marry a dead person, provided that there is evidence that the deceased wished to marry the surviving partner.
The law making this possible was introduced in 1959 after President
Charles de Gaul le visited the Provençal town of Fréjus, where a dam had burst, killing hundreds of people. There he met a young woman whose husband-to-be was among the victims. She begged to be allowed to go ahead with her wedding and the law was duly passed.
Dozens of posthumous weddings now take place each year in France, motivated by the simple desire to fulfill the dream of matrimony.
IT IS ALSO TRUE THAT ALIENS
from outer space are banned from landing on the world-famous vineyards of Châteauneuf- du- Pape in south- eastern France. In 1954, the local mayor, Lucien Jeune, proclaimed: “Any aircraft, known as flying saucer or flying cigar, which should land on the territory of the community will be immediately held in custody.”
As recently as October 2016 mayor Claude Avril affirmed, “I’m not going to touch the ban.” Well, why should he? Not a single Martian has touched down in Châteauneuf since the law was introduced. Alors, the ban has worked!
Over the border in Switzerland, there’s a widespread belief that residents are banned from flushing a toilet after ten o’clock at night.
This turns out to be half true. There is no national law on flushing toilets in Switzerland, but there is legislation requiring householders to be mindful of their neighbours. This is used by Swiss cantons (states), municipal it ies and apar tmentbuilding owners to just ify rules governing noise, such as high heels on wooden f loors, car horns, noisy pets… and late-night loos.
That’s not to say that even the sensible, orderly, peaceful Swiss don’t have their own genuinely odd laws. For example, it is legal in Switzerland to eat a cat or a dog, despite petitions to parliament to outlaw the practice. Fricassée de chat, anyone? No, thought not.
Individual cantons can make their own rules. Hikers are not allowed to pursue their hobby in the nude in the north- eastern Swiss canton of
Appenzell – a law introduced after the conservat ive locals became alarmed that their picturesque region had become a magnet for naked walkers.
THE BRITISH BELIEVED IT WAS
i l legal to die in the Houses of Parliament, although no one knew what the penalty for breaking this law was. Six years after it was voted Britain’s most absurd law in a 2007 poll, the Law Commission of England and Wales concluded that no such law had ever been passed.
The Commission did, however, note that there is still a statute, dating from 1313, that forbids Members of Parliament from wearing armour in Parliament – no matter how often an embattled Prime Minister may have wished for a helmet and breastplate.
More prosaically, the Commission also confirms that it is illegal in the capital, London, to carry a plank along a footpath, or fire a cannon within 300 metres of a house; and it is an offense in England and Wales to be drunk in an establishment licensed to sell alcohol, or to be drunk in charge of a horse.
SOME OF THESE LAWS SOUND
crazier than perhaps they are. Who wants to be hit by a plank when the person carrying it turns a corner? And there’s a good reason why it’s illegal to feed the pigeons in Venice. Pigeons can stuff a lot of food into their stomachs. But that food soon reappears as pigeon droppings, which damage the historic buildings that the people who feed the pigeons have come to see and admire. So the less food the birds eat, the less mess they make and the less damage they cause.
But were authorities elsewhere in Italy really sensible to ban spherical fish bowls in Rome, or to insist that all pet dogs in Turin are walked three times a day, and that pets in Reggio Emilia must, by law, receive an equal portion of any shared meal?
And did the mayors of various tourist resorts really have to ban the bui lding of sandcast les in Eraclea, or kissing while driving in
Eboli, or hanging beach towels out of windows in Lerici, or strolling through the streets of Castellamare di Stabia in miniskirts, low-cut jeans or revealing clothes?
IN GERMANY, IT SEEMS, THE MAIN
beef is noise, with strict rules on antisocial Lärmbelästigung, or noise pollution. An average suburban man elsewhere in Europe might spend his Sunday afternoon mowing the lawn or putting up a bookshelf. But not in Germany, where making any kind of noise is strictly forbidden on Sundays and public holidays.
And the country that brought us Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Wagner has it in for musical instruments, too. Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has ruled that playing, or even tuning, instruments is forbidden in rented apartments at any time except from 8am to noon and 2pm to 8pm.
THE NATION THAT APPEARS
most frequently accused of legal idiocies is the United States. For example, Lorraine Lorne, associate law librarian at the University of Arkansas, investigated the constant onl ine suggest ions that men in Arkansas were entitled to beat their wives – but only once a month.
She concluded: “No such law was found in any of the... Arkansas statutes.” But she goes on to say, “The states of Alabama, Arizona, California, South Carolina appear to permit beating one’s spouse within certain limited circumstances… [including] with the permission of the victim!”
Elsewhere in the US, visitors to New York should note that section 255.17 of the New York state penal code mandates that extramarital sex is a “class B misdemeanour” that can lead to 90 days in jail or a US$500 fine.
In Kentucky, it is forbidden to “sell or exchange, display, or possess
living baby chicks, ducklings, or other fowl or rabbits which have been dyed or coloured… in any quantity less than six.” In other words, it is a crime to sell one duckling that has been dyed bright blue, but not to sell six blue ducklings.
Heading out into the Pacific, it is illegal in Hawaii to sit at a bar with more than one drink in front of you, unless you can point out the person to whom the drink belongs.
THE MANIA FOR CRAZY LAWS IS
spreading all over the world like a legislative virus.
In Singapore, the importation, sale and use of chewing gum has been illegal since 1992, unless the gum has proven medicinal qualities.
In Saudi Arabia, the Commission for the Promot ion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has made it a crime for men to walk their dogs or cats in public for fear they will use their pets to help make advances to passing women.
China, meanwhile, has its sights set on heaven. Buddhist monks in Chinese- occupied Tibet intent on achieving nirvana may not be reincarnated af ter their death, unless they file an application for reincarnation with the Chinese State Religious Affairs Bureau.
While in Australia, bunnies – friendly and feral – are strictly forbidden from entering Queensland. Better known as the home of salt-water crocodiles, the ‘sunshine state’ takes the business of staying rabbit-free very seriously. So much so that anyone caught attempting to bring one of the furry creatures into the state will cop a fine of $44,000. Ouch!
On the other side of the country, it is illegal to stockpile potatoes. Although it’s been a long time since anyone starved from not getting enough potatoes to eat, Western Australia upholds its Market ing of Potatoes Act from 1946, which prohibits anyone in the state from selling, delivering, purchasing, or taking delivery of 50kg or more of potatoes – unless they are a member of the Potato Corporat ion or an authorised agent.
The penalty for breaking this law? $2,000 for a first offence and $5,000 for a subsequent offence.
Now that really is crazy!