Law and order are core tenets of a functioning contemporary society, as rules and regulations serve to keep us safe, keep our streets clean and keep our communities ticking along. As strait-laced and sensible as laws may usually be, there are a number of oddities which stick out of law books like a sore thumb – some historical, some more recent than you might think. Here are four such laws, and the reasons for their strange application.
No High Heels at Ancient Sites – Greece
While other laws on this list appear to be completely arbitrary even when taking into consideration the time in which they were written, this Greek item of legislation is much less strange on closer inspection – and goes as far as to make sense in its application. High heels are deemed not just a risk to health on ancient sites of cultural import where loose rocks and rubble are rife, but also a danger to the preservation of the sites themselves. The relatively sharp points of stiletto heels are considered a risk to preservation efforts, as they could cause permanent damage to brittle aspects of the site. The law is also one of the most recent on this list, coming into effect in 2009.
Chewing Gum – Singapore
This is perhaps the most well-known odd law on this list, having received global coverage since its creation in 1992. Singapore has banned the sale of chewing gum, with few exceptions for nicotine gum and dental applications. The law was designed to clean up streets, and is fairly innocuous on the face of it – however, one aspect of the law comes with extremely hefty punitive measures – from fines up to the tens of thousands up to two years imprisonment – and could require representation from an international law firm if even accidentally breached on holiday. That clause involves the ‘trafficking’ of gum into the country for sale, and its punishments apply even for a first offence.
Smile or Risk a Fine – Milan, Italy
A remnant law from the height of the Austro-Hungarian empire, this piece of legislation requires that citizens of Milan smile at all times, with a few notable exceptions. Hospital staff, hospital visitors or funeral attendants are permitted not to smile, but being caught with a frown in any other circumstance could warrant a small fine. Naturally, this law is not enforced by any means – but it is yet to be repealed, meaning it remains enshrined in the city’s law books for all to see.
Don’t Die in City Limits Without Owning a Burial Plot – Sarpourenx, France
This amusing by-law was brought about in Sarpourenx, a town in the Pyrenees which was suffering a unique issue and resulted in the passing of a recent – and frankly odd – law. In 2008, the city’s mayor made it illegal to die within the boundaries of the town without having previously purchased a burial plot at the local cemetery. Strict punishments were lined up for those who posthumously fell foul of the law; however, its incorporation was not designed to punish the dead. The law was a protest law, to bring attention to the overcrowding of the cemetery in recent years.