Has Po­lit­i­cal Cor­rect­ness Gone Mad?

What’s the cra­zi­est law on the planet? There’s plenty of com­pe­ti­tion

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Front Page - BY DAVI D THOMAS


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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!

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