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10 Strange International Laws


If you’ve ever been on the internet, you have probably seen someone pass around a list of “wacky laws” from various states in the USA. These are usually laws that are still on the books from decades or even centuries ago, were never constitutional, wouldn’t be held up by any local judge worthy of their position, and were usually just passed by city councils of small towns to make a point and throw their weight around. However, around the world many truly strange laws have been passed that are either symbolically important, truly enforceable, or are judiciously enforced in creatively interesting ways. In today’s article, we will go over the top 10 strangest examples.

10. In The United States, There Are Some Exemptions to Child Labor Laws On Farms

In most developed countries, child labor has been pretty much done away with and the world is all the better for it. However, in the United States of America, a country that most would imagine got rid of that quite some time ago, there are a lot of exceptions when it comes to farm labor. See, farmers in the United States often have trouble getting enough people to work on their farms and get everything done, especially at a wage that is affordable for the farmer. For this reason, having children work on farms has been a thing for a very long time, and there are exceptions in the law to allow it.

Essentially, as long as they are still getting an education, whether by going to school or a state approved homeschool program, they are allowed to be worked on a farm for no pay — even as a young child — without any real restrictions on the hours (as long as they are working for their parents own farm, regardless of how big or commercial a size it might seem). Furthermore, as wild as this may sound to people from Europe, as long as you are just driving your tractor on the farm, you may allow your kids to drive around in it without any age restrictions or training whatsoever. Of course, children die or get horribly maimed due to this sort of nonsense every year, but the pressure from the farm lobbies has so far stopped any laws with real teeth from going into effect to change things.

9. The Laws On Cruise Liners Are Complex, and Different From How Many Imagine

Legal jurisdiction can get extremely murky when it comes to trying to prosecute a cruise liner, or anyone who did anything to you while you were on one, but in general it is supposed to apply as follows: If you are within 12 miles of a country’s waters, you are subject to their laws and jurisdictions. End of story. If you are more than 12 miles out but less than 24, you are not subject to their laws, but you have to allow them to board to look for potential smuggling activity, regardless of your country of origin. After that, once you get to international waters, you do still have to follow laws — the laws of whichever country your cruise ship is officially registered in. That means if your cruise ship is registered in the United States, you still have to obey the laws of the USA.

This meant that from the 1950s to the 1990s, no United States-based cruise liner allowed gambling aboard their ship. However, in 1991, after it was pointed out to the proper regulatory authorities that there were only about three ships left that were officially registered in the United States, they passed a competitiveness act that allows US-based cruise liners to begin allowing people to gamble, in contravention of United States law, once they actually reached international waters. It’s basically a huge exemption that has been carved out so that the USA will not be entirely left out of the cruise ship game.

8. Diplomatic Immunity Has Led to a Plethora of Unpaid Parking Tickets Worldwide

Nobody likes parking tickets and, let’s face it: if we could legally get away with it without any consequences, we would curl the things up into a ball, throw them away, and move on with our lives without paying. Now, most of us simply don’t have the power to do that. We can ball the thing up, but one way or another the city is eventually going to come and somehow take their money from us. However, if you are a diplomat, you have diplomatic immunity. Now, in movies like Lethal Weapon 2, we have plots where diplomatic immunity is used in an attempt to get away with murder, but the vast majority of diplomats abuse it in a much more banal way —  they fulfill a fantasy many of us have, by simply ignoring parking rules (or congestion fees) and doing what they want anyway, as it doesn’t matter.

When you have diplomatic immunity, no one can force you in court to pay your tickets, and many from the United States have argued the congestion fee that London has, for example, is just a tax on going in and out of the city (tax being something diplomats don’t have to pay). The United States government shares this viewpoint. However, it isn’t just London, or even New York for that matter, that suffers most from this, but Canberra and many other cities around the world. If the city plays host to a lot of diplomats, they often have backlogged debts for diplomat parking tickets ranging from the hundreds of thousands to the millions. New York recently implemented a policy where they simply wouldn’t re-register a diplomatic vehicle with too high a debt, and it helped a little, but it has simply creeped back up over the years since. It seems when you give a government official full diplomatic immunity, most just use it to toss aside all the petty bureaucracy that’s part of the system they help maintain.

7. China Decrees They Must Approve Reincarnations, In An Attempt to Control Tibetan Monks

As you probably already know, China has, for a long time, been trying to control the country of Tibet, and part of that involves trying to squash the influence of the Tibetan monks. The entire situation is extremely political, as a lot of religious sensibilities are involved, and if China came down too hard on the current Dalai Lama, they could risk some kind of widespread riots, or even international involvement. However, that doesn’t mean they are just sitting around with no strategy besides occupation and repression.

See, the thing about the Dalai Lama is that he is supposed to be a reincarnation of a previous Lama, and so on.The issue is that the Tibetan monks generally get to choose their own successor, as it is supposed to be their spiritual influence that is able to tell who is actually the next reincarnation. However, in the hopes of controlling the process, China has actually decreed laws not allowing a Lama to reincarnate without going through the Chinese government to approve it first — which means they basically get to hand-pick their own Dalai Lama, which would give them ultimate control and influence over the Tibetan people and anyone who still follows Tibetan Buddhism. However, the current Dalai Lama has already fired back against this by stating the next Lama would likely be born in a free country, and that one chosen out of China, by the Chinese government, could not be trusted as the proper Dalai Lama.

6. In Russia You Can Be Fined Because of a Dirty Car (Sort Of)

Now, this isn’t exactly the law, as it’s more of a law being misinterpreted by the police. However, in a country like Russia, arguing with the police (or the local city council over your police’s corrupt behavior) is not likely to get you much of anywhere. In Moscow, and other big cities in Russia, drivers often simply stop driving for much of the winter as it gets too cold for many older vehicles to operate, and then bring them back in the spring — sometimes without washing them at all first.

Now, the law — like in many countries — simply states that a car is considered “dirty” as an actual offense if it’s dirty to the point that the license plate is not visible. However, many police are using the law and people’s ignorance of the details to fine anyone with an extremely filthy car, even if the license plate can be seen just fine. The first time city authorities started doing this back in 2006 after a harsh winter, they declared it was “clean car month” and went on a rampage of fines. While it may not have necessarily been legal, the city clearly wanted to do something to encourage people to clean up, and didn’t want to have to amend the old law to do it… so they just sort of bent it a bit.

5. In China, You Must Have Social Visits With Your Elderly Parents

China has a lot of elderly citizens. When counted in 2014, their percentage of elderly citizens was at 9%, which is higher than many countries, such as India, which was only at 5% when the same estimate was made. It’s also one of the fastest growing elderly populations in the world, with experts expecting their elderly population to roughly double by the year of 2030. For this reason, elderly people who are lonely or not particularly well cared for are becoming an increasingly serious problem. Elderly people have already even been occasionally suing their children for not visiting them enough, or taking care of them, but a law passed in 2013 in China helps give the elderly more teeth with which to sue their children.

The law states that children should make an effort to regularly visit their elderly parents; however, it isn’t really clear on how often that should be. The law is difficult to enforce because of the ambiguity, but the lawmakers have said that it wasn’t necessarily meant to be a fully functional law, but more of a way to raise awareness of the issue, and make it easier for parents to sue and get the court to order some kind of visitation schedule, if they are being truly neglected when they need physical or emotional care. We feel like it’s important to emphasize that last part, because obviously, this isn’t just your nagging mom wondering why you don’t stop by for dinner more often.

Some Chinese people are worried about the law mainly because of the ambiguity, and also because oftentimes well intentioned children don’t always have the means, or even the time off work, to visit. The law doesn’t really fix anything, but it does serve to highlight the growing demographic problem in China and the tension between the young and the old.

4. In Much Of The Caribbean, Camouflage Clothing Is Illegal

In the United States, it’s actually fairly common to wear camo pattern clothes, so much so that people make jokes about whether they can “actually see you there” because of your ability to “blend in.” While it isn’t exactly considered a high fashion choice, it’s certainly not something the authorities would ever worry about in most countries, and people would just assume you have an affinity for military-style garb and/or enjoy hunting.

However, in many Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, St. Vincent and St. Lucia, several African countries, and even Saudi Arabia, wearing of camouflage patterned clothes is banned, unless you want to be fined or potentially jailed. The issue is that they don’t want any civilians being mixed up with members of the military, as most of the countries with these laws have at least one uniform with a camouflage pattern. When you think of it that way, the law actually makes perfect sense… although it’s unlikely someone wearing say, a pair of camo shorts and a beach shirt, is going to be confused for active duty military of any kind.

3. The Town of Tuszyn, Poland Banned Winnie the Pooh From Their Playground

While it wasn’t exactly a law, the town of Tuszyn, Poland made international news for a strange decision they made in 2014. They had been trying to decide a new mascot for the town playground, and were going over innocent and wholesome cartoon characters they could use that would be fun for the children. One of the names that came up was Winnie the Pooh, and at first you would think this was a suggestion that would pick up some steam; it doesn’t get much more innocent, fun, and generally banal than Winnie the Pooh. He is, in fact, a character that most people would imagine would be impossible to be offended by… unless he is already associated negatively with your dear leader, as he is in China.

However, someone recorded the town council meeting where it was discussed, and leaked the audio to the Croatian Times, who made fun of the proceedings and their inherent silliness. Apparently, the idea was shot down and Pooh was banned as the potential mascot mainly because he wasn’t wearing any clothes on his bottom half, and was actually “half-naked.” Now, some would imagine you would argue that he isn’t immodest because he has no genitals, and is just a cartoon. Oh, and also, a bear. Last time we checked, it’s more unusual for bears to be wearing red shirts than it is for them to be without pants. Unfortunately, that did come up during the debate, and some council members suggested that it made Pooh some kind of hermaphrodite, or someone with some kind of other gender identity disorder, and that it therefore made him even more inappropriate for children. We wonder what the city council of Tuszyn, Poland, thinks of Donald Duck.

2. Japan Is Policing Obesity, But They Haven’t Made It Illegal As Some People Think

In 2008, Japan passed a “Metabo Law” that left a lot of people scratching their heads and adding yet another one to the “weird Japan” file. The rumor claimed that the law literally made it illegal to be fat, and that if you were fat enough, the government could fine or even imprison you. However, while a Metabo Law was passed, it was not at all what many in the Western World thought it was.

The way the law works is that if you are in between the ages of 45 and 74, and you have a waistline of 35.4 inches or more for a man, or 31.5 inches or more for a woman, then you have to have it measured every year and seek proper medical advice from a doctor on how to shrink your waistline and improve your health. The law does not make it illegal or even attach fines to having extra weight; it just ensures that you get the medical attention you need if you go beyond what Japanese legislators have considered the line for an early intervention against dangerous levels of weight gain.

1. Turkmenbashi Was A Mad Ruler Of Turkmenistan… But They Aren’t Much Better Off Without Him

If you have ever seen the TV show Archer, you may be familiar with an episode where they visit Turkmenistan and learn that it has an insane leader named Gorbagun Gorbanguly, who has changed the words for both bread and Friday to his dog’s name: Gurpgork. Now, while this isn’t at all true, it is based on some true life events. Turkmenistan’s current leader’s name is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, and the previous leader of the country, a man named Saparmurat Niyazov — also known as Turkmenbashi — was pretty much the undisputed dictator from 1990 until 2006. During that time he was known for being a power-mad eccentric who not only ruled with an iron fist, but made utterly insane proclamations.

He created a national melon day, after the country’s chief export, and also a national day for horses. People used to wear gold fillings in their teeth as a mark of status, but Turkmenbashi felt they were not a good thing, and soon people were tearing them out of their mouths, spending their money on expensive dental work. He banned circuses and ballet because they were “unnecessary.” He also banned beards because he didn’t trust followers of Islam. On top of that, he changed the name of January to his name, and April to his mother’s name. When he died and the new dictator for life took over, he did do away with a lot of the more eccentric laws, but it still continues to be an incredibly poor country where ethnic Muslims are distrusted, and the vast majority of the country’s oil riches are going to the elites who run it all, or just sitting in the ground not being used due to poor infrastructure and mismanagement.

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