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miércoles, enero 22

More weird laws

(I read these ones in an article written by Devorah Lauter for the Telegraph, on 3rd February 2013)

Women in Paris finally allowed to wear trousers 
The now-revoked law required women to ask police for special permission to "dress as men" in Paris, or risk being taken into custody. In 1892 and 1909 the rule was amended to allow women to wear trousers, "if the woman is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.

A location to die for
If you fancy a spot of eternal life, forget the Holy Grail: just go and live in the remote Arctic town of Longyearbyen, where dying is against the law. Actually, this is because it was found that bodies didn’t decompose in the permafrost. The graveyard stopped accepting newcomers 70 years ago; so if you fall gravely ill there now, you will be hastily dispatched by plane to the mainland, where you can end your days without getting arrested.

I arrest chew in the name of the law
Ever thought that chewing gum could land you in jail? Well, in Singapore, it has been completely illegal since 1992. The only exception is nicotine gum, but even then smokers can only get it from a pharmacy with a prescription. Chewing gum is legal in New York, of course, but cinema owners there must chisel all gum off the undersides of their auditorium seats every month. Makes trodden-in popcorn seem positively pleasant.

The indelicate delicacy
The people of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia simply love the durian fruit, which looks a little like a cross between a pineapple and a porcupine. However, many local authorities have completely banned the consumption of this delicacy from buses, subways, hotels and airports. Is this yet another outrageous infringement of civil liberties? Well, since the durian is said to smell like a mixture of "pig-droppings, turpentine and onions", maybe not, on this occasion.

Where’s that dessert trolley
When dining at a restaurant in Denmark, you don’t have to pay for your food unless, by your own opinion, you are ‘full’ at the end of your meal. A wafer-thin mint, sir?

Catch-22 customs
If you ever suffer at the rubber-gloved hands of a suspicious and painfully overzealous British customs officer, don’t be tempted to take him or her to court – no matter how innocent you are. Section 268 of the Customs Laws Consolidation Act 1876 rules that no action can be brought against such an official without one month’s notice. While Section 272 of the same Act insists that any action must be started within one month of the incident.

Fat fighters
You are forbidden to be fat in Japan. Although their country already has one of the world’s lowest obesity rates (less than 5 per cent, in contrast to the USA’s 35 per cent), that didn’t stop Japanese lawmakers from setting a maximum waistline size in 2009. Every man aged 40 and over must not have a waist measuring 80cm or above, every woman, 90cm or above. And this from the land that brought us sumo wrestling…

Thai him up
Thailand may tolerate many exotic sexual shenanigans, but it is still illegal to leave your house there if you are not wearing underwear. And you can’t drive your car if you’re not wearing a shirt, not matter what’s going on in your trousers. Nor should you step on any of the nation’s currency. And don’t even think of insulting the king – you could get 15 years in jail.

Barefaced Cheek
If you’re on a safari in Kenya and your guide suddenly removes all of his clothes before wandering off towards the wildlife, do resist the temptation to do the same. While it’s completely legal for Kenyan citizens to streak across the Masai Mara, it is illegal for foreigners to do so. It’s also deeply inadvisable for at least 147 other reasons.

I wonder what that teddy was doing there
In Denmark, you legally have to check under your car for children who may be sleeping there before you start the engine. But don’t panic too much if you forget and get thrown in jail for running over some catnapping kids – in Denmark it is not against the law to escape from prison.

Not feeling very flush
You must plan your movements very carefully in Switzerland. Flushing the toilet after 10pm in an apartment building is illegal there. The Government curiously considered noise pollution to be more anti-social than olfactory pollution. Not sure we agree with them on that one. Anyway, whether you relieve yourself and leave the flat humming, or you just wait until morning, the choice is completely yours.

Pricey passports
You’re a British citizen, you pay upwards of £77.50 for your passport, it has a valid picture of you in it – so it’s yours, right? Well, maybe. According to the text on the leaflet it belongs to Her Majesty’s Government. But in 1955, Earl Jowitt, a former solicitor-general and attorney-general, pointed out that ‘the Government’ couldn’t own anything because there is no such legal entity. No one since has been able to clarify the matter. So who gets the £77.50?

G.I. No
If you’re one of those spirited sorts who relaxes by re-enacting battles, you might want to think twice about taking a Caribbean holiday – it’s against the law to wear camouflage clothing in Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia. Apparently this is to prevent people from imitating military and other officials, and you could be detained and have your kit confiscated. That is, of course, if they can find you.

Out of this world
According to the brilliantly named ‘The Outer Space Act 1986’, the Secretary of State is permitted to use ‘reasonable force’ to prevent an alien invasion of the UK – as long as the aliens don’t possess a licence to invade. In which case, they can operate their ‘space objects’ in perfect legality. This is the sort of law that truly made Britain great.

Drunken Disorders
Drinking a lot is confusing enough without having to remember a myriad of boozing bylaws. For example, in St Louis you can’t drink beer while sitting on a city street, but in Chicago you can be arrested for drinking standing up anywhere in the city. You cannot be served wine in a teacup in Topeka, Kansas; while in Cleveland, no more than one person may sip from a whisky bottle. Saskatchewan in Canada at least has the rights of the drinker at its civic heart – it is against the law to drink water in beer parlours there.

Czech your change
If you’re in Prague and your taxi driver ups the meter setting beyond the standard rate of ‘level 1’, watch out. If he turns it up to ‘level 2’ he might just be ripping you off – par for the tourist course. But if he cranks it up all the way to ‘level 3’ then it’s time to panic. This is the official Government-sanctioned rate that must be used for all taxi rides following a nuclear explosion.