Premarital sex is common in Singapore

Before you wash your car in Sydney, spit on a policeman in Oklahoma, light a cigarette in New York or die in Le Lavandou: take a look at the local law books.


Spitting on a cop may seem more harmless than breaking a woman's arm. In the US state of Oklahoma, given the unlikely choice, one should nevertheless opt for the latter. The willful hurling of body fluids at an officer is considered a serious crime there and can be punished with life imprisonment (spitting at the neighbor is only punished with a fine). This is what a law says that the government passed in 1996 in the wake of AIDS hysteria and has not only not revoked it, but has, on the contrary, applied it several times.

Most recently, John C. Marquez, with a criminal record for rape and robbery, was sentenced to life imprisonment in July 2003 for spat on a police officer when he was arrested again. The jury went for the maximum sentence, although neither AIDS nor any other disease had been transmitted through the spit attack, and Marquez had no such intentions. The reason for the arrest: Marquez had attacked a woman and broken her arm. For this he could have been punished with a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of $ 3,000.


Two hundred francs is a lot of money for a car wash; especially if you actually wanted to save money by spraying the car on your own doorstep with a hose. Because water became scarce in Sydney after months of drought, it has been forbidden since October 1, 2003 to use a garden hose to wash solid surfaces such as car bodies or garden paths or to water lawns and flower beds with the aid of a sprinkler system. A fine of 220 Australian dollars (210 Swiss francs) is imposed on those who fail. On the other hand, watering the garden with a hose is allowed, which is why resourceful people wondered whether you should not put the car on a meadow and then spray the meadow (you are not allowed).

A specially deployed water police ensures that the new regulations are also respected. Their stock of 50 people looks ridiculous in view of the more than 4 million inhabitants of Australia's largest agglomeration, but they have already caught the first sinner. For the man who forgot to turn off his sprinkler system in the posh suburb of Cremorne, the $ 220 would probably cost less than the fact that he was the first criminal to get the attention it deserves in the newspapers. More will probably follow soon, however, because the water police are counting on the help of the population via a telephone line set up specifically for this purpose. In the first two weeks alone, around 2000 calls are said to have been received.


In the picturesque coastal town of Le Lavandou on the Côte d’Azur, life is sweet - and death is expressly forbidden for the vast majority of residents. On September 19, 2000, the mayor of the village with 5,000 inhabitants decreed by virtue of his office: "People who do not have a reserved grave place in the cemetery and still wish to be buried in Le Lavandou are prohibited from dying."

As Mayor Gil Bernardi emphasizes, the unusual decree should be understood less as a rebellion against the finiteness of human existence ("Politicians are not all-powerful, even if many believe it") than as a protest against the arbitrary power of the higher administration. Like the hotels in the main season, the cemetery of the popular holiday resort and retirement home has long been fully booked; the community therefore acquired a new piece of land near the sea to create a new place of eternal rest for its residents. The administrative court in Nice intervened and stopped the project for reasons of bank protection.

Since then, the mayor has grumbled that this decision made it impossible for the municipality to meet its obligation to "bury all deceased persons residing in the municipality in the municipality in accordance with their cults and beliefs". And because he didn't just want to look for a new place for the future cemetery, he decided without further ado that only those who had a grave site or at least found shelter in a family grave were allowed to die in his village. For obvious reasons, there are no penalties for wrongdoing.

However, the mayor advises everyone who does not yet have a place in the cemetery: "Those who are cremated will do the community and their relatives a good service."


Who would have thought that the failure of the world trade talks in Seattle four years ago would give Singapore new freedoms? After Seattle, Singapore wanted to sign a bilateral free trade agreement with the USA. During the negotiations, the outrageous question came from Wrigley: whether it will be possible to sell chewing gum again in Singapore in the future - as in any other country? Those who wanted to act freely, so the deliberations in Chicago, should also be allowed to chew freely.

The Singapore government banned the sale, import and chewing of chewing gum in 1992. Nobody has ever been punished for chewing or putting a package in their pocket; However, anyone who imports the stuff and sells it commercially or engages in sticky mischief with it can expect fines of up to 10,000 Singapore dollars (around 7,500 Swiss francs).

Unlike later Wrigley, the people accustomed to the prohibitions accepted the law with equanimity. Nobody really needed the chewing gum in Singapore. Singapore was neither occupied nor liberated by the Americans and chewing gum never became a symbol of freedom. The British had more refined morals anyway, apart from the flogging they introduced here, of course. In addition, chewing gum causes practical problems in tropical climates. They do not dry out and therefore stick always and everywhere: on shoes, clothes and sometimes on the doors of the subway, which are jammed as a result. Because the cleaning of public spaces proved to be increasingly tough, the government finally adopted a ban.

Soon the free trade agreement will come into force. But as always, when Singapore opens up to Western influence, it does so in small steps. Chewing gum will not be available in supermarkets, but only in pharmacies. Also there only on the prescription of the doctor or the dentist and for the moment only the sugarless products from Orbit and Orbit White. Wrigley could hardly have wished for anything better: de facto equality with pharmaceuticals - without a cumbersome approval process. The tobacco industry can only dream of that.


“Between the 14th Nissan at noon and the 21st Nissan, 20 minutes after sunset, shopkeepers are prohibited from displaying or selling bread, rolls or other foods made from leavened grain. Excluded from the ban are places where the majority of the residents are non-Jews. Violations will be punished with a fine. " This originally religious ban applies in Israel to the Passover holidays, which take place in March or April. Since religion and biblical laws play a major role in the Jewish state, the ban was made a law of the country in 1986. Since then, the display and sale of bread and bread products during Passover week has been made a criminal offense. Even beer, which is known to be made from hops, may not be offered for sale on Passover.

The ban is a reminder of the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. When the slaves left Egypt head over heels at the behest of the Pharaoh, they had no time to bake bread for the travel provisions. Instead, they took unleavened cakes with them, called matza, which they then let rise in the sun. Since then, Jewish believers have only eaten matza during Passover week. Strictly speaking, private individuals are also prohibited from owning grain products - even overlooked breadcrumbs behind the sofa are covered by the ban - but the law does not go that far. In order to still do justice to the biblical instructions, the chief rabbi of the country sells all bread and grain products of the Jewish people for a symbolic fee to an Arab in a ceremonial act before the start of the holidays.

The fact that Arab towns or urban districts are exempt from the ban means that Israelis of the Jewish faith, who are not so strict about religious commandments, go to neighboring towns to stock up on normal bread with impunity. The bakeries in East Jerusalem then each do particularly good business. The following anecdote is told about it: A passer-by, who was walking past a bakery in East Jerusalem, saw that the baker was eating a piece of the unloved matza. He asked him with astonishment if he liked these dry slices. No, answered the baker, but the Jews from West Jerusalem bought all my goods from me.


"Crimes against nature" can be committed in Paris or Rimini, but not in the USA. There the duration of the possible punishment is grossly disproportionate to that of pleasure. Mitchell Smith sees it the same way, and he should know: The man was fearlessly orally satisfied in a hotel room by a travel acquaintance. French, stop. According to Statute 14.89 of the Criminal Code in the US state of Louisiana, an unnatural thing, even if two adults do it on the best of terms and with the greatest pleasure. Because the travel acquaintance later told the police about the frivolous machinations, Mitchell Smith paid for his orgasm achieved illegally with three years in prison, which he recently served. This is followed by two years of probation, during which he is neither allowed to vote nor travel.

21 homosexuals who are currently awaiting trial in Virginia have made themselves repeatedly criminal offenses against nature. They too did not adhere to the ordinances for civil bed intercourse. Understandably, the missionary position among men is a little difficult to implement. "Willful, unnatural and lascivious acts to appeal to the lust, passion or sexual desire of others," is what the state authorities call it. Not only in Virginia, but also in 11 other states in the United States, oral or anal sex is punishable by a fine of up to $ 2,000 and up to ten years in prison. About half of them, such as Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Carolina, actually still enforce these laws.

That is already a step forward: ten years ago, 24 states had similar laws. And by 1962, all 50 US states, without exception, criminalized any lovemaking that did not take place in marriage and was not for purely reproductive purposes. In the state capital Washington D. C., premarital sex is theoretically still illegal (in practice, however, no one is prosecuted for it anymore). Extramarital pleasures, however, are legal (so from a legal point of view, Bill Clinton was fine).

A ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court in the summer of 2003 declared a Texan law unconstitutional, which criminalized consensual sex between adults of the same sex even in their private homes. It is none of the government's business, so the reasoning, what adults do in their bedroom. Strictly speaking, all the bans on oral and anal sex that still exist are unconstitutional. A state of affairs that conservative moral guards will not accept without saying a word. In Virginia, for example, the judge ruled that the 21 homosexuals would still be charged. After all, some of them would have had sex in a park, not in private rooms. For now, the recommendation remains: Rimini. Or just Paris.


Constitutional rights are exactly what the idyllic town of Kennesaw in the US state of Georgia is all about. Especially with the second amendment, according to which every citizen of the USA has the right to own a firearm. Law? "It is a civic duty to arm yourself," says Mayor Leonard L. Church. There is a law in Kennesaw that requires possession of a pistol, revolver, or rifle. The city council decided in 1982 that every household in the town of 21,000 people must have a functioning firearm and cartridges at hand, with the exception of convicts, mentally or physically disabled people and patients under the influence of medication.

The fact that Europeans consider this measure to be drastic irritates Mayor Church and Police Chief Tom Callahan. «Drastic? How so? The law cut our crime rate by 30 percent and has kept it low ever since, ”says Church. Indeed, there has been less crime since the gun became compulsory, and national debate is endless as to whether the law is really causing the decline. It was decided for a different reason: "To take a position because a town in Illinois had just banned private gun ownership at the time," says Mayor Church, "what nonsense!" So what happens to you in Kennesaw if you're caught at home without a gun? Police Commissioner Callahan says calmly: “That almost never happens anyway. You don't have to force anyone to own a weapon here. "


The state coffee plantation Kwa Matingi east of Nairobi looks run down. The general misery in the coffee business has now been joined by another misfortune. Thieves stole water pipes, power cables and the wheel axle of a tractor. As usual in such cases, the investigation by the Kenyan police failed. The farm management therefore helped themselves. They announced over the radio and on the bush phone that the culprits would be cursed if they did not return the stolen goods immediately.

For the Kamba ethnic group living in the area, this is not an empty threat. Because the curse called "Kithitu" knows only one punishment: the death of the villains and their relatives. “Fear of death drove one of the thieves to bring back the stolen wheel axle in the morning before we had the ritual of 'kithitu' performed,” says Samuel Matini, the farm's manager. An old sorcerer had scattered cowrie shells, herbs and powder on the floor and stroked the utensils with a stick, muttering magic spells. No one has yet heard of an abrupt death, but that is only a matter of time, says Samuel Matini with conviction. The best thing about the "Kithitu" curse is that, unlike the police officers and the judges, it is not bribable.

However, the authorities considered this curse of revenge illegal and wanted to arrest the manager of the farm: In cases that were actually a matter for the police, the state could not tolerate unorthodox and primitive methods. Despite this threat, Matini is still at large. He and his colleagues were very lucky. Other African countries are enforcing their laws against witchcraft.

The case of the two best Tanzanian football clubs, which were sentenced to hefty fines for practicing witch rituals on the field, is still harmless. The Central African Republic state prosecutes witches and not infrequently tortures them. In Congo-Kinshasa, many families accuse their children of witchcraft and cast them out. For some of them sects then drive out the devil in brutal rituals. And alleged witches are being lynched in many African countries. In Uganda, the Constitutional Court recently invalidated a law against black magic. It originated from colonial times - the British wanted to prevent innocent people from being accused of witchcraft, among other things.


Light a cigarette in the museum lobby: immediate kicking out, threat of punishment possible, abuse likely. Caught secretly smoking in the restaurant toilet: 100 to 200 dollars fine. Smoke at the counter in a downtown bar: a $ 200 fine for the bar owner who hasn't stopped his guest. New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is currently working hard on his reputation as the intrepid successor to clean-up Rudy Giuliani. As far as rigorous bans are concerned, Giuliani has, as is well known, left hardly anything: crossing the street at red is a criminal offense, strip clubs are largely banned, and criminals are fought harder than ever. All that remained was the fight against contamination of innocent lungs.

The "Clean Indoor Air Act" is the name of the law that has officially prohibited smoking in all public buildings in New York since May 1, 2003, as well as in company and business premises, restaurants and even "smoking bars". Whether in the museum, at the employment office or on office floors - violations can be punished with a fine of up to $ 2,000. Even in street cafés in the open air, puffing is only allowed in a separate area that does not take up more than 25 percent of the entire café area. 524 restaurants and bars were fined in the first four months alone. No exceptions are made, not even for New York's illustrious celebrity scene. For example, at the premiere of his film "The Dancer Upstairs", John Malkovich was evicted from the door of the Bryant Park Hotel when he tried to light a cigarette.Even more merciless was Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, who smoked a camel in his spacious office in Times Square - an air pollution that is lawful to endanger other employees, which has led those employees to anonymously call health officials. The officers came three times, three times the air in Carter's office was anything but clean, three times Conde Nast had to pay buses, each time a little more.

So where is smoking still allowed? In the private apartment, in the hotel room (if it is a smoking room), in the private car (no, not in the taxi), on the street (but not near house entrances), in the tobacco shop. That's it. That means there is another place of refuge: the UN headquarters. It is an international zone where local laws do not apply, much to Mayor Bloomberg's annoyance.

Contributions were written by Stefanie Friedhoff, a journalist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Rudolf Hermann, NZZ correspondent in Sydney; Manfred Rist, NZZ correspondent in Singapore; Andreas Heller, editor NZZ-Folio; Kurt Pelda, NZZ correspondent in Nairobi; George Szpiro, NZZ correspondent in Jerusalem.

This article comes from the magazine NZZ Folio from January 2004 on the subject of "Punishment". You can order this issue or subscribe to the NZZ Folio.