It’s an old and popular adage that decrees: “peace comes at the edge of a sword.” It exemplifies the implementation of the law in many places. The law and its practice and execution, in the purest sense, should permit everyone to carry out their lives and their business without being hindered by the actions of others. Its ultimate aim is that crime shouldn’t pay and the reward for infringing on the freedom of others is the limitation of the criminal’s own freedom.
Yet far from being an intangible force that should empower and enable the populace to conduct their lives unhampered, the law often gets messed around with. Authoritarian law makers and politicians or bureaucrats with far too much time on their hands twist the law to their own bizarre ends, often with some head scratching results. When looking back through the past and old laws that have faded into the parchment into which they were etched, some really shocking edicts have been scratched into statute. Laws that are so ludicrous that committing them is as unthinkable as the very fact that they are illegal. You have the right to remain in shocked amusement as the following list unfolds…
18 UK - Illegal to Die in Parliament
The every day ins and outs of parliamentary procedure may seem rather tedious to the majority of citizens. Hours are whittled down debating the whys and wherefores of how to run a nation and it seems that very little real change results in the chambers of government. Is it entirely possible to slip the mortal coil whilst running the country? Yes, but apparently not everywhere is it perfectly legal! In the UK, a land with once the largest empire in history and with no actual written constitution, it is actually illegal for a politician (known as MPs, or Member of Parliament) to coin a British term, “pop their clogs,” in other words, die in Parliament. How to police this law is the perfect head scratcher for the endless reams of red tape merchants, who clog political arterial discourse. How does one go about punishing the dead, for example? Especially considering that a politician has died in the UK’s House of Commons, Prime Minister Spencer Percival, who was assassinated in the chamber. So following the logic of this law, both the murderer and the victim were criminals… good luck bringing the dead man to justice!
17 Thailand - Illegal to Step on Money
Thailand is a very vibrant and popular tourist nation and destination. A pressing and urgent confluence of colorful and ancient culture. Tropical natural beauty and an ancient and rich culture, mixed with stunning beach resorts… not to mention the ladies of questionable downstairs parts! Yet this vast of plethora of weird and wonderful appeals is not just consigned to tourism and nature, it also seems to have adapted to the law itself. A nation where their king, Rama IX, currently the world’s longest reigning monarch (king for 69 years and counting), is viewed as divine by his subjects, it seems even his currency is rather sacrosanct too. Picture the scene, dropping a bank note on the busy streets of Bangkok or rammed bars of Phuket, placing a foot to secure the last piece of currency before the holiday is over and being arrested for the desperate act? As apparently the law in Thailand dictates that treading on the nation’s money is illegal! So think twice about stepping on a note being threatened to be blown away on a gust of wind in Thailand!
16 Germany - Illegal to Run out of Gas on Highway
The Autobahn is the network of high speed highways in Germany, transporting the drivers of Deutschland across their highly industrious nation. The Autobahn has no formal speed limit, so the notion of driving on these risky roads could be construed as a real life, potentially fatal version of Mario Kart! Yet minus shells, crashes and shrinking opponents with lightning, a motorist could be out of fuel and out of favor with the law of the land. Allegedly it is against the law for a driver to run out of fuel on the Autobahn. Such a nice way to rub salt in the wounds of a little automotive mishap, isn’t it? Don’t try walking to get help or fuel either, as walking along the side of the Autobahn is illegal too!
15 South Korea - Police Officers Must File Bribe Reports
Remaining with the traffic jam of motoring laws for now, let’s take a long haul drive across the world from Germany to South Korea. The tiny Asian nation, the high tech end of the peninsula and polar opposite of it’s totalitarian northern neighbor, still flexes some of the weird laws that may be expected from it’s Draconian counterpart. One of the usual ways some criminals (who can afford to do so that is) circumvent the law, is to pay off the officials that put said law into effect, in other words, a bribe. Yet in this tiny nation, the law of the land requires that police officers that do receive a bribe, are legally required to report it! What exactly is this bizarro world system? Police are hardly likely going to submit to their own firing and arrest. An officer corrupt enough to accept a bribe’s first thought is hardly going to be: “better file this!” Seems like someone bound their Seoul a little too tight in red tape…
14 Australia - Illegal for Crossdressers to Go Strapless
Australia seems to be a rather easygoing sort of a place, right? A usual vision of the small, yet sunny continent in the southern hemisphere is one of beers, barbecues and babes. The world’s driest continent though becomes desiccated here and there with the odd desert of barren laws that are so weird that would honestly enforce them in their right minds? Such an example comes from Australia’s “second city,” Melbourne. Considered more cultural than it’s rival, Sydney, perhaps this is the reason that something as vulgar and uncouth as a little harmless cross dressing constitutes sartorial slander in New South Wales? According to the law of the Australian city, it is illegal for a man to wear a strapless dress. Whilst it is understandable that very few people wish to see a hairy back squeezed tightly into figure hugging dress, Australia is a very hot place. Sometimes grabbing a gown that frees the shoulders and back may be the last resort to get some breeze to the body.
13 Portugal - Illegal to Pee in Ocean
“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!” The fact that 70% of our planet is covered in brine may well put the kybosh on that! Yet to some regions and nations, the ocean is precious. Portugal has always been a seafaring nation, at the edge of Europe and facing the roiling deeps of the Atlantic Ocean, dependent on fishing, now the once pioneering nation of European exploration/colonization is home to plenty of beach tourists. It is therefore expected that this precious commodity of water on the Portuguese doorstep is seen as something to be protected. So woe betide anyone caught short whilst wading in the sea! Letting a stream of water loose from the genitals into the ocean carries risks anyway. From parasitic creatures burrowing their way up the ding-a-ling, but in Portugal, a wiz in the water may result in some time in a cell, as fouling the ocean is illegal.
12 Japan - Illegal to be Fat
Everyone is fully aware that piling on the pounds isn’t the best way to go and can lead to a whole host of discomforts sooner and a plethora of negative health effects later. Even so, it can be hard to police what people eat, yet it seems Japan may have dreamed up a solution to bulging waistlines… though may have squeezed a “gastric band” around the Sumo Wrestling tradition! In 2009, it was decreed in Japan that no man over 40 could have a waistline in excess of 31 inches (35 inches for a woman). That’s correct, from the nation that introduced Sumo Wrestling to the world, it actually has a restriction on weight… perhaps the Sumo tradition will soon commit hara-kiri?
11 Italy - Illegal to Fall Asleep in Cheese Factory
According to the old wives’ tale, eating cheese before going to bed can allegedly cause nightmares. So perhaps it is because of this that Italy, a nation known for churning a plethora of cheeses, takes this preventative measure? “Prevention is better than cure,” as the quote goes, so no doubt the Neapolitan demeanors of the Mediterranean, warm-blooded Italians should be tempered by preventing a cheese induced night terror? In Ferrara, Italy, a place that must be always geared for high speeds (down to the Italian brand of cars that have a similar name), slowing down seems to be somewhat of a faux pas, especially around dairy products. It is illegal to fall asleep in Ferrara’s cheese factory. Perhaps there is a mouse problem there that is equivalent to a Walking Dead style zombie-apocalypse… or maybe it’s just a weird rule?
10 Oklahoma - Illegal to Mock Dogs
The USA is always a ripe place for picking up the odd law and bizarre piece of legislation. The nation of course is made of 50 States and each State has varying laws for the citizens within. Oklahoma is a State that was inspiration for a musical of the same name and also inspiration for one of the most bizarre laws ever devised. It is against the law to make an ugly face at a dog in the State, an offence that can carry a jail term. There is a sneaking suspicion here that the law was passed because officials in the State were sick of people belting out “OOOOKLAHAMA!” in their homes and as many people have dogs as pets, it was a simple of killing two birds with one stone.
9 Alaska - Illegal to Wake Bear
More animal craziness from America. Yet this law truly begs the question: who would be insane enough to attempt what this law is prohibiting anyway? Alaska is the largest of the USA’s 50 States and remains a rugged and forbidding landscape that is only compatible for the hardiest of people. A place where nature is literally beyond the doorstep of a cabin. Where bears have been known to wander into towns to forage for food in the trash. So maybe a hapless wanderer or tourist to the wilds of Alaska would be tempted to take a snapshot of one of these dread beasts, which is where this law may come in? The police will come down hard on a person that dares to take a picture with a bear and has the gall to wake the creature up from a slumber in order to take a selfie with a bear… that’s if they are not taught a nasty and probably fatal lesson by the bear itself!
8 Utah - No Violins in Paper Bags
Moving thousands of miles south from Alaska (but remaining in the USA) is the State of Utah, the State founded by Mormons. Mormons are often viewed as crazy by many people’s standards, yet religious oddities notwithstanding, this law straight out of the State capital, Salt Lake City, is something that perhaps only divine providence can answer and may have even had Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith scratching his head. Salt Lake City prohibits violins from being carried in a paper bag. Now, not only would one question the logic of transporting an instrument of this kind around in a bag so flimsy (that could snap beneath the violin’s weight and break the body and strings), it begs the question of who and how this law is going to be policed. Do police literally go out of their way to ensure musical instruments are carried in the appropriate casing?
7 Britain - Illegal to Handle Salmon "Suspiciously"
Back across the “pond,” the UK also is not immune to some bizarre laws. One can get in trouble if they are behaving “fishy” for example and can get “smoked” should they land in too much trouble with the law. Salmon poaching is a quite serious crime, which no doubt is behind the impetus of this law, making it illegal to handle a salmon suspiciously in the UK, yet what constitutes suspicious? Perhaps someone exiting a fishmonger’s wearing a long coat with an upturned collar, sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat fits the bill? Maybe if someone is spotted furtively removing the filling from a salmon and cream cheese in a way that looks almost criminal…
6 UK - Illegal to Import Polish Seeming Potatoes
Staying in Britain and it seems that the kingdom on the edge of Europe ostensibly has absorbed the randomness of the roiling Atlantic it overlooks and this weirdness seems especially focused on food. People in the UK are very fond of the potato. It’s popularity has sprouted ever since it was introduced from the Americas (evolving a little in the way it’s prepared and eaten, from when Queen Elizabeth I apparently bit into one raw when one of the root vegetables was presented to her by Sir Walter Raleigh). So it is apparent that the law of the land takes pride in this prized import that has adapted so well to the island’s soil. Yet it is somewhat baffling still that it is illegal to import potatoes into England and Wales if there is sufficient reason to believe they were imported in from Poland! What differs Polish potatoes in appearance, texture and flavor from British ones? And what makes Poland the victim of such potato xenophobia?
5 Chicago - Illegal to Eat At Burning Restaurant
Remaining in the restaurant business for a moment longer and this law is a real burning issue as to how this is even a thing! Laws are made to protect us, but there are some laws that are created that common sense dictates that a person should not do and no one in their right mind would do! Take Chicago, Illinois for example, in this city it is a felony to eat in a place that is on fire, so forget about tucking into your favorite meal as the place is being incinerated around you! Questions are raised as to how a law such as this was cooked up!
4 Bangladesh - Cheating At School is a Felony
No one likes a cheat, yet people can get desperate and when exams are looming, the odd person can start to panic, especially when, as teenagers do, they waste time and energy on other things that seem like life and death in the little microcosm of adolescence. So every now and then, a person will cheat at their exams, an airheaded jock suddenly gets an A+, for example? Discovery of this misdemeanor can be treated harshly enough in the West, with failing an exam, or even perhaps expulsion in the worst case scenario, but jail? In Bangladesh, this is definitely a genuine repercussion to any exam cheaters out there. Students over 15 that are caught cheating on their exams can be imprisoned… F indeed! F for Felony!
3 Hong Kong - Wife Can Kill Cheating Husband
Nothing equals the beauty of marital bliss, right? Wrong, well sometimes anyway. Apart from the lasting romance of marital happily ever after union, often marriages disintegrate and people can even stray from their spouses. Yet in Hong Kong, this is a very big mistake, at least for the husband in the wedded party. As in this Chinese city-state it is legal for a wife, if she catches her husband cheating, to kill her husband! But there is a catch (isn’t there always a catch?) The husband who has been unfaithful can only be dispatched by his scorned wife if she uses her bare hands to do the murderous deed… She must work hard for that legal loophole, yet it may be satisfying to exact revenge in that way. Perhaps a cheated on ex-wife thought up this law?
2 Milan - Illegal to Frown
The Italian city is a thriving, cosmopolitan center for culture and is well known for being a hub of global fashion too. So it would seem that there would be plenty for people to smile about in this city. Italy is a sunny place (often) so it figures that sunny dispositions are a pre-requisite too, but backed by the force of the law also? For in Milan, frowning and not smiling is against the law and could hand the miserable perpetrator something to make them even more miserable, a sizeable fine as punishment for their grumpiness! Of course, there is a get out clause, this law doesn’t apply to hospital visits or funerals… that would be sadistic!
1 Samoa - Illegal to Forget Wife's Birthday
Samoa is a small island country that seems like a lush tropical paradise to some. Yet there are some serious legal undertones for one forgetful enough to spoil the birthday of a loved one in this lush place. It is illegal on the small island nation for a husband to forget their wife’s birthday. It is easy to imagine then that many a husband is rushing about like crazy at the last minute, or they have the date of their wife’s birthday tattooed on their arm or the palm of their hands. Because a wife’s wrath is one thing, but backed by the arm of the law, then it makes for a lethal combination!
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