Things Around the World You Didn’t Know Were Banned
Lip-synching, jogging and samosas. Do you know what all of these things have in common? Though seemingly innocuous, each one has been outlawed somewhere in the world.
In some cases, these bans were instituted very reasonably, in response to political unrest, to preserve health and public safety, or to honor religious doctrine. But there are also a surprising number of things — including, yes, gold teeth, sandcastles and the honey-loving bear Winnie the Pooh — that have been banned without legal justification, often due to the machinations of a power-drunk dictator.
If you're keen to learn the why behind some of the most bizarre items and activities ever banned, keep reading.
Sandcastles - Italy
With its beautiful beaches and crisp blue water, Eraclea, a small city outside of Venice, is the perfect summer vacation spot. However, before you visit, beware — sandcastles, along with all ball-related games, have been banned from the city's beaches.
The sandcastle ban was born when Italy's interior ministry, a government agency, gave the town’s mayors power to ban any act or item that could impair a resident's safety and security. How a sandcastle was determined a security threat remains unknown. However, The Guardian reported that sandcastles were outlawed because they "obstruct the passage," whatever that means.
During this banning spree, noisy shoes were outlawed in Capri, kissing in cars was banned in Eboli, and miniskirts were given the boot in Castellammare di Stabia.
Wearing Camouflage - Barbados
If you're in Barbados and feel the desire to get arrested, throw on some camouflage and wander the streets. There’s a good chance a member of the BDF (Barbados Defence Force) will pick you up and offer you a free ride to jail.
Ever since Tom Adams served as Prime Minister of Barbados from 1976 to 1985, it's been illegal for anyone besides the military to wear anything resembling camouflage. While this ban seems like a severe infringement on individual rights, it actually had a fairly reasonable impetus: Adams wanted to prevent rebels or people with ill-intent from impersonating law enforcement and harassing tourists or causing panic among residents.
In addition to Barbados, the camouflage ban exists in much of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.
Water Guns - Cambodia
Every April for three consecutive days, Cambodians leave all their duties behind and head home to celebrate the Khmer New Year that marks the end of the harvest season.
Although the event is cause for celebration throughout the country, in the province of Siem Reap, leading up to and during the new year, residents are banned from importing, selling or using water guns.
The ban seems both bizarre and harsh — what kid doesn't love getting their hands on a water gun? — but was actually implemented for practical reasons.
According to the police of Siem Reap, the water guns pose a safety risk during the new year, when tourists flood into the country. In addition to the increase in foot traffic, the streets become packed with cars and motorbikes. And unfortunately, even if done in jest, one squirt from a wild water gun could cause an accident.
Durian Fruit - Singapore
Popular in South East Asia, the durian fruit has the round shape of a large cantaloupe, and its outer shell is covered with thick stubs that are reminiscent of porcupine skin. But beyond its odd physical appearance, what people tend to remember about the durian fruit is its foul and pungent odor.
When the late Anthony Bourdain was asked to describe the smell and taste of durian fruit, he said it's “indescribable, something you will either love or despise…Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”
Food writer Richard Sterling has also described it in less-than-glowing terms, once comparing it to "turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock."
The smell is so bad that Singapore has banned the fruit from mass transit, and some taxi drivers will refuse to pick up passengers in possession of it.
However, despite its stinky reputation, durian is used heavily in South East Asian cooking, and some believe the fruit can tame fevers and serve as an aphrodisiac.
Lip-Synching - Turkmenistan
Saparmurad Niyazov became dictator of Turkmenistan in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union. During his reign, Niyazov went on a manic banning spree, outlawing all sorts of random things. And the most random thing of all was the act of lip-synching.
Niyazov — or as he preferred to be called, Turkmenbashi or "The Great Leader of all Turkmen" — believed the act of lip-synching defiled the authenticity of Turkmenistan's culture. As a result, he made it illegal, banning it from all cultural events, concerts and private celebrations such as weddings.
According to the BBC, before he died of a heart attack in December 2006, Niyazov also banned operas, ballets, beards, car radios and gold teeth. Additionally, he closed all of the country's hospitals, except for one in the capital city of Ashgabat, and renamed some calendar months after his mother and, of course, himself.
Naked Hiking - Switzerland
In 2011, a man was fined 100 Swiss francs for hiking naked through Appenzell, a highly conservative region of Switzerland. On his journey, he meandered past a family with small children and a Christian drug rehabilitation center.
Given that no law in Switzerland bans public nudity, the man appealed the fine in court. However, there is a statute that outlaws public indecency, which allowed the court to overturn his appeal and, as a result, naked hiking in Switzerland was formally banned.
However, over the years there's been some confusion as to whether or not the ban officially exists, or if it has just been folded into the public indecency law. Additionally, there are conflicting reports as to whether or not the ban applies to just Appenzell, or to the entirety of Switzerland.
In any case, it’s probably best to play it safe by always wearing clothing on your Switzerland hikes.
Yellow T-Shirts - Malaysia
When the Malaysian the anti-corruption group Bersih 2.0 discovered a mysterious $700 million deposit in former Prime Minister Najib Razak's bank account, they took to the streets of the capital city Kuala Lumpur wearing yellow T-shirts.
In response, the then Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, banned the T-shirts, labeling them a national security risk. The ban was upheld in Malaysia's High Court, where it was decided that anyone caught wearing yellow would be arrested and fined the equivalent of $1,185.
In defiance of the court's ruling, the protestors poured into the city streets anyway, wearing yellow T-shirts branded with the word “bersih,” which means “clean” in Malay. Maria Chin Abdullah, chairwoman of Bersih 2.0, told The New York Times, “The (yellow) T-shirts have now become a symbol of our struggle for democracy and human rights in Malaysia.”
Jogging - Burundi
The act of jogging has long been known to help maintain cardiovascular health and lower high blood pressure, but in Burundi, where it's considered subversive by President Pierre Nkurunziza, it's been banned in the country's former capital of Bujumbura. (In 2018, Burundi's government decided to move its capital to the city of Gitega).
The ban materialized when the opposition party, the Movement for Solidarity and Development, decided to protest Nkurunziza's decision to extend his time as president illegally. Instead of walking, the protestors agreed to run in a large group, causing panic within the government. To sideline his opposition, President Nkurunziza came up with the brilliant idea to make all running a crime, seeing it as an opportunity to prevent groups of people from organizing. Astoundingly, defying the law can result in life imprisonment.
The oddest twist in this whole saga? Before becoming president, Nkurunziza was a passionate sports coach.
Winnie the Pooh - Poland
Winnie the Pooh, the honey-loving bear created by author A.A. Milne in the 1920s, is one of the most innocuous, lovable characters ever brought to page or screen. But in Tuszyn, a small town in central Poland, the Silly Ol’ Bear is outlawed.
When the local council gathered to nominate a mascot for a children's playground, conservative members of the group banned using Winnie the Pooh on account of his being "half-naked” and “inappropriately dressed." Said one councilmember, not inaccurately: “The problem with that bear is it doesn’t have a complete wardrobe.” Even more strangely, the bear was also accused of being a hermaphrodite.
The meeting where Pooh's fate was ultimately decided was secretly recorded and leaked to the local press, leading to incredulous coverage around the world.
Samosas - Somalia
In the Somali town of Afgoye, an occupying militant group of Islamist fighters called Al-Shabaab banned samosas, the delicious, globally beloved fried-dough snack.
Initial reports stated that the food was banned because its triangular shape evoked the Holy Trinity of Christianity. (In reality, the samosa was initially called samsa after the triangular shape of the pyramids in Central Asia.)
Later, though, it was clarified that concern for public health may have been the motivating factor in outlawing the snack.
Tobacco - Bhutan
Bhutan has been at odds with tobacco since 1729, when it became the first known nation to issue strict tobacco regulations that resulted in the eventual banning of all tobacco and tobacco-related products.
The modern-day tobacco ban kicked off in 2010 with the passing of the Tobacco Control Act. In addition to making smoking and chewing tobacco a non-bailable offense, the Act stipulated that anyone caught with tobacco could be jailed for a minimum of three years. However, if the perp were able to prove the payment of import fees via a receipt, they would avoid punishment.
The Act caused smokers and non-smokers alike to protest, and eventually, it was amended in 2012. Under the new provisions, the amount of tobacco an individual could carry for consumption was increased.
Today, to avoid fines or imprisonment, many smokers of Bhutan are forced to buy their supply on the black market.
Crushing Beer Cans - Australia
Ok, so it isn't actually illegal to crush beer cans in Australia — but it is unlawful to crush them between a woman's breasts.
The details on this ban are a bit fuzzy, but it likely stems from an incident that unfolded at the Premier Hotel in Pinjarra in Western Australia in 2009.
Allegedly, a bartender named Luana De Faveri was caught crushing beer cans between her bare breasts, during her shift and in front of patrons. She was also accused of smothering a few between her butt cheeks. Her acts were determined to violate Australia's Liquor Control Act, and Faveri was issued a $1,000 fine.
Despite Faveri's obvious missteps, it isn't clear where in Australian law it directly states that crushing beer cans in this fashion is illegal. Instead, it appears it may be unlawful because it indirectly violates some health and public safety measures.
Either way, if possible, it's best to avoid crushing beer cans between your breasts while in Australia.
Mannequins - Iran
To combat the influences of Western culture, which it sees as corrupting, the government of Iran has banned mannequins from shop windows unless they’re conservatively dressed and wearing a hijab. In addition to mannequins, the government also forbids Western-style neckties and bowties from being displayed in public, and forbids women from selling men's underwear.
As strict as they may seem, these laws are actually tied to fairly lax punishments. At least for the dress code restrictions, an initial violation warrants a warning from police. If the law is repeatedly ignored, the offender is mandated to attend "guidance classes.”
Strip Clubs - Iceland
In 2010, the government of Iceland banned all strip clubs and made it illegal for any business to monetize an employee's naked body. Somewhat surprisingly, the ban wasn't inspired by religious doctrine, but by the concerns of Iceland's thriving feminist community. Kolbrún Halldórsdóttir, the politician who first introduced the ban in Parliament, told the national press, "It is not acceptable that women or people in general are a product to be sold."
After closely monitoring the working conditions of Iceland's strip clubs, the police determined that most of the women working were shipped in from other countries. It's never been confirmed whether or not the strippers were trafficked; however, it was discovered that many who worked in the clubs were forced into prostitution and were suffering from drug abuse and poverty. These unfortunate realities greatly influenced Iceland's support of the ban.
Baby Walkers - Canada
In Canada, baby walkers — devices designed to help babies learn to scoot around — have been outlawed. And for very good reason.
The ban on walkers was implemented in 2004 because of the serious dangers the contraptions pose. And the punishment is no joke: Any retailer who advertisers or carries baby walkers, or any parent who resells them, can be forced to pay $100,000 or sent to jail for six months.
In the U.S., there have been similar efforts to ban the walkers. Every year, about 2,000 kids in the country are sent to the ER for walker-related injuries.