Most developed countries in the world require that the punishment for a given offense fit the crime. For example, execution generally wouldn’t be a fitting punishment for jaywalking, no matter how many drivers had to slam on their brakes while honking and yelling at the offender. However, there are still many countries that have ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ in effect. This term is commonly defined as unacceptable or excessive, due to the degree of pain, suffering or embarrassment inflicted by the punishment. Even if you aren’t a student of the law, be careful and read up on local laws next time you’re traveling, for whether the punishment is deemed cruel and unusual due to a hefty fine, loss of limbs or imprisonment, you better be careful not to break any of these laws. In fact, the state of your wallet – or your life – just might depend on it.
10. England – Feeding the Birds
Feeding birds is a common and relaxing pastime for many people, whether they’re spending a day at the lake or throwing crumbs to pigeons in a city square. While feeding the birds in Trafalgar Square in London may seem like a fun way to take a break in between museum visits, think again – feeding the birds comes with a hefty $1,000 fine. The fine was enacted because pigeons are seen as carriers of filth and disease, so many people want to curb their existence in the square. It’s no surprise that these ‘rats with wings’ can’t catch a break in upscale London.
9. Singapore – Chewing Gum
If you have bad breath in Singapore, you’re better off sticking to a mint – in 1992, after vandals had caused costly problems by sticking gum on the door sensors of Singapore’s metro trains, gum was officially banned. In other words, you’ll never find somebody’s old and discarded gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Although gum may be chewed if prescribed by a doctor or dentist, buying or selling gum within Singapore’s borders is accompanied by a fine of $1,000 or $2,000, depending on how many times you’ve broken the law. Singapore is a country renowned for its cleanliness and functionality, in part maintained by the ban on gum. If you do decide to rebel, just don’t spit it out on the streets – you’ll face a fine of up to $500 for defacing public property.
8. Russia – Homosexuality
There are many countries in the world that still have bans on homosexuality, including several states in the U.S.A. However, some of the laws against homosexuality in Russia seem blatantly ridiculous. One law prohibits even mentioning to minors that people who are gay exist, because it is viewed as homosexual propaganda. In fact, the lawmakers refuse to even say the words “homosexual” or “gay,” instead euphemistically calling it “non-traditional sexual encounters.” If you’re caught committing the offense of noting that gay people do, in fact, exist, you could be arrested, detained, imported and forced to pay a fine.
7. United Arab Emirates – Extramarital Sex
If you’re traveling to the United Arab Emirates with your unmarried partner, make sure you practice discretion. Extramarital sex is illegal, as is simply living with a person of the opposite sex. If you simply can’t resist temptation and you’re caught breaking the law, you could be subject to lashings, imprisonment and deportation, even as a foreigner. Despite the harsh laws, prostitution and extramarital sex are still common in the United Arab Emirates – just make sure it’s hidden from the public view. Be on your guard even when sneaking a peck on the lips, because kissing in public is also illegal. Despite the miles of beautiful coastline, sex on the beach probably isn’t the best idea if you’re in the United Arab Emirates.
6. Afghanistan – Theft
Theft is taken very seriously in Afghanistan. Offenders don’t face simple fines or prison time – the punishment is much worse and lasts for a lifetime. Theft became punishable by amputation when the Taliban took over in 1996, and is generally carried out by a professional executioner with a knife, not by a doctor, although new finger-chopping machines are being created to expedite the process. Depending on the severity of the theft, the amputated body part can be a single body part like a finger, toe, hand, leg, or it can be a combination of several body parts. Even if the amputation is ‘only’ a finger, the punishment is a strong deterrent.
5. France – Dying
Most laws have pretty obvious reasons behind them and are often backed up by the golden rule. However, the law against dying in Sarpourenx, France doesn’t seem to make much sense. The mayor decided to outlaw dying in Sarpourenx when space in the graveyard began to run short. Offenders will apparently be “severely punished,” a somewhat ambiguous penalty. However, if you’re already dead, even the smallest punishment would be cruel and definitely unusual.
4. Nigeria – Cheating
The temptation to cheat on exams can be irresistible for everybody, and most people cheat at some point in their lives. Cheating and plagiarism are never tolerated at educational institutions; the offense is often punished with a failing grade or expulsion, which can have extremely negative effects on one’s future. But just one glance at your classmate’s paper or a couple notes scribbled on your arm can have dire consequences in Nigeria. Instead of facing traditional disciplinary action, cheating can result in either imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of 200,000 Naira (approximately $1,200), or both. On the bright side, this extreme punishment is just giving offenders five years of extra study time.
3. Brunei – Theft
In the Southeast Asian country of Brunei, Sharia law requires rigorous enforcement of a wide array of strict laws that can apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Although many people may think of stoning as a relic of Biblical times, the practice is being revived in Brunei as a punishment for those who have committed various acts, including theft. Many have viewed the reenactment of this cruel and unusual punishment as a violation of fundamental human rights, but Brunei insists that it is of the utmost importance to follow the laws in the Koran. Getting stoned might be a good plan if you’re vacationing in Jamaica, but you definitely want to avoid it in Brunei.
2. Saudi Arabia – Drug Use
Because illegal drugs can cause dangerous situations and be harmful for human health, the majority of countries have laws to protect their citizens from drugs. However, Saudi Arabia’s laws are notoriously strict. If you’re caught trafficking or using drugs in Saudi Arabia, it could be your last high. The most common method of execution is old-fashioned decapitation with a sword, although death by firing squad or stoning are also alternatives. Unfortunately, the punishment doesn’t always end at death – sometimes the dead body is displayed in public, via crucifixion. Don’t think you’ve got a get out of jail free card just because you’re a foreigner – visitors may still face the harsh punishments for drug use.
1. Turkey – Drinking and Driving
Laws against drinking and driving are a relatively new invention. In the United States, modern day laws with corresponding punishments didn’t begin cropping up until the 1970s. However, some places have decided that mere jail time and fines aren’t punishment enough for such a dangerous offense. This one makes the top of the list simply because of how strange it is: in some small towns in Turkey, drunk drivers are punished in an extremely unorthodox manner – police officers take the drunk driver to a point twenty miles away from the police station and force the driver to walk back accompanied by a police officer. “Walk it off” is taken quite literally here.