6 Countries That Have Screwed-Up Laws You Never Knew About
People sometimes mistake progress for enlightenment. We think that just because a country can launch a space station or produce a good Netflix drama, that means it's on the path to Utopia. But it turns out that even the most advanced nations haven't ironed out all of their dumb lingering nonsense. For example ...
France Doesn't Have An Official Age Of Consent
France has a reputation for being the most sexually liberated place in the world. Threesomes, affairs, skunk-on-cat -- unlike those English-speaking bores, the French are cool with pretty much anything. And it seems that includes having sex with kids.
French law doesn't technically have an age of consent. Unlike in any half-decent country on this Earth, having sex with a child isn't automatically considered rape in France. Instead, if some monster molests anyone under the age of 15 and prosecutors can't prove the child was "coerced," the crime is classified as a "sexual infraction," which comes with a small fine and maybe, maybe, a few years of jail. For example, in 2017, a 29-year-old man was arrested after he had lured an 11-year-old from a playground and repeatedly had sex with her. But he was acquitted by a judge because his lawyers claimed that her agreeing to go on a walk with him counted as consent, going as far as to say: "We are not dealing with a sexual predator on a poor little faultless goose." No wonder Roman Polanski feels so at home there.
But unlike many insane European laws, this isn't some medieval hangover from a time when people were supposed to marry at age 12 and die at the ripe old age of 12 1/2. This messed-up worldview only came along in the late '60s, when apparently the Sexual Revolution eased taboos a wee bit too much. Certain folks started arguing that children, most of whom can't even be in charge of a lemonade stand, can be considered in charge of their own sexuality in their relations with adults.
"If a 13-year-old girl has the right to take the pill, what is it for?" read one creepy petition signed by many prominent intellectuals, including an incredibly old Jean-Paul Sartre (to the surprise of no one, he remained an asshole right up 'til the end). Suddenly "pedophilia was considered a sexual orientation ... It was all part of a vision of freedom," according to psychiatrist Muriel Salmona. Anything to stay ahead of the perv curve, we guess.
After several protests, the French government promised to codify the age of consent in 2018, but did a 180 at the last moment, leaving France's children up for grabs. They must've suddenly remembered their favorite Sartre quote about high school girls.
Sweden Is Almost 100 Percent Anti-Drug
You'd think that a nation constantly on the brink of cabin fever whose skies occasionally light up like a Led Zeppelin laser show would be into mind-altering substances. But for some reason, when it comes to drugs, Sweden doesn't need to take anything to be paranoid as hell.
Despite having the reputation as perhaps the most progressive and egalitarian nation on the planet (and being a stoner's throw away from Amsterdam), the Swedish stigma toward recreational drugs is unrivaled in the West. In a recent poll, more than 90 percent of Swedes were found to be in favor of keeping all drugs illegal. And yes, that includes pot -- the smoking of which can even land you in jail long after the effects have worn off. Drug use is so stigmatized that simply admitting to it invites dirty looks and disgust from most Swedes, and there's sadly very little you can offer them to chill out.
Weirdly for a country that's so big on schooling, Sweden's drug paranoia seems to come from a lack of education. Overall, it lags decades behind on drug research and policy. As a result, their outdated war on drugs has seen drug usage skyrocket and drug deaths per capita spiking to four times as high as the European average. At this rate, it'll be 2420 before Sweden is finally 420-friendly.
The UK Is Terrified Of Porn
The British are notorious sticklers for the rules. For everything, there is a proper way to do it -- how to address the queen, how to add cream to scones, how to nut a chav in the bollocks, and so forth. And now there's also a right way and a wrong way to watch porn, thanks to the Digital Economy Bill of 2017.
The Digital Economy Bill is one of the most puritanical laws the West has decreed since we've stopped wearing buckles on our hats. Under the new law, not only will the government decide when and if you can spank it to nudey videos, but also what behavior is allowed in said videos. To counter any anti-Victorian behavior, the UK government banned all "non-conventional sex-acts" from appearing in erotica, including "sexual acts involving urination" and "female ejaculation." Leave it to a bunch of conservative bores to think of the female orgasm as "non-conventional."
As a result, UK porn has become (even more) boring than it already was. Porn stars are omitting old classics like fisting for fear they are sticking one too many fingers up their willing partners' body cavities (a practice barred under this new legislation). All of this is, of course, to prevent porn from destroying the "moral purity" of the nation. Four fingers up a bum will surely turn the empire into a den of decay similar to the town from Footloose. Guarding the British citizens' decency is the British Film Board, which now has to employ adults with film degrees to watch all the porn in the world to make sure no female ejaculates. We can't figure out if that's the best job in the world, or the worst.
In Japan, Racism Is Basically Legal
In 2015, a record 15 million people visited Japan to see what kind of culture could birth both samurai and Hello Kitty. That's impressive, especially for a place that openly hates foreigners.
Despite having a great tourist industry and a national birth rate lower than a panda enclosure, Japan has the kind of anti-immigration monoculture policies that would make any Western fascist orange with envy. Tattoos are associated with criminals, so places like hot springs often have a policy banning people with ink. However, that also includes foreigners with dumb Simpsons tattoos -- or worse, those who have them for religious reasons.
But that's almost nothing compared to the many other Japanese businesses which utilize actual segregation, barring non-Japanese from entering their restaurants, shops, and hotels. All of which is perfectly legal. And because they're such a polite culture, they even put the signs up in English, so it's easy for foreign devils to know where they're not welcome.
As one professor on Asian culture frames it, "people other than Japanese can't be admitted as a member of society," and most Japanese will treat Non-Japanese as second-class citizens, no matter the circumstances. Of those living in Japan, a whopping third of non-Japanese residents report harassment and discrimination. So come vacation time, if you want to enjoy Japanese culture but don't want to be treated like an animal, try the local anime convention instead.
In Italy, Fascist Mobs Are Still In Vogue
While other former Axis powers have managed to leave their fascist pasts mostly behind them (looking at you, Japan), it seems that Italy wants to start rallying like it's 1939 again. Acquiescing to a cherished racist tradition that dates back to Mussolini's Blackshirts, Italy officially legalized vigilante organizations in 2009. Today, Italian mobs roam the streets of most big cities, carefully and legally stalking immigrants and Roma, harassing and even attacking them for the slightest thing. As a result, in the five years after the law was passed, hate crimes against non-ethnic Italians skyrocketed.
Despite the rise in anti-immigration hate crimes, the government sees no problem with these roaming gangs of angry xenophobes, possibly for fear they'll lose the coveted truncheon-wielding voter bloc. In fact, the government seems keen on avoiding any comparison of their new vigilante groups with the WWII ones, saying the thought of Blackshirts returning "disgusts" them. On an unrelated note, they would really like it if everyone could overlook the Italian National Guard, one of the biggest sanctioned vigilante groups in Italy, with their snazzy uniform of "khaki shirts, black ties and black armbands bearing a red symbol."
In Russia, First-Time Domestic Abusers Get A Pass
In 1963, Russia sent the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into space. Terror, extreme pressure, dying of asphyxiation ... Tereshkova escaped all those things by fleeing Russian soil. But it isn't the '60s anymore -- Russian women no longer go to space, and it's also no longer illegal to beat them or their kids.
In 2018, the Russian government finally responded to the country's long-running domestic violence problem, one that on average kills a woman every 40 minutes (around 14,000 per year). Unfortunately, that response was to give abusive husbands a Get Out of Jail Free Card. According to an amended law, as long as an abused woman or child isn't battered to point of hospitalization (the threshold for abuse only starts at broken bones), a first-time offender will not face any jail time. For second-time offenders, the punishment is a fine as low as 5 rubles (80 cents American), meaning a man could beat his wife within an inch of consciousness twice and only have to pay whatever loose change he fishes out of the couch cushions.
Under the new "slapping law," if a man refuses to pay the fine, the court will take it from his joint account, meaning that women often have to pay for their own beatings. Even women who fled to shelters were tracked down by the courts in order to force them to pay their abusive husbands' fines. Suddenly, enlisting as a mail-order bride to be sold off to some awkward schlub from Vermont seems like a logical and reasonable choice.
Endorsed by Putin, the reforms were spearheaded by ultra-conservatives and the Orthodox Church to prevent families from breaking up over something as silly as "a slap." And it's definitely working! Despite domestic violence shooting through the roof, actual legal claims have gone down drastically, because now only about one in ten cases even gets reported. It's much more economical for everyone involved.
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