If you’ve lived in the same country your entire life, it can be easy to forget that not all countries abide by the same laws. But laws differ from country to country for lots of different reasons. While some laws are shaped by a county’s history and its politics, some are shaped by a country’s culture and religion.
The laws in some countries, however, are so strict that it’s hard to accept that they’re even real. From laws that make chewing gum illegal to death sentences for protesting, here are some countries that have the strictest laws in the world.
Indonesia has particularly harsh drug laws and punishments as well. If you are the parent of a child who is using drugs, and you fail to turn them in, you as the parent could face charges too. In Indonesia, you can be sentenced to death for narcotics trafficking and up to 20 years in prison such for marijuana offenses. Simple possession of Group 1 drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy can result in four to 12 years in prison.
In Pakistan, it is punishable by death if you are convicted of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. In this case, insulting even means not believing or practicing another religion. It is assumed by some that such laws have been put in place to persecute the Christians in the country or as an excuse to commit violent acts against them.
in Zimbabwe, it is a serious offense to insult President Robert Mugabe. Zimbabweans are constantly being arrested and fined for undermining the authority of the president.
Dubai’s drug possession policy can be seen as extremely harsh to some. Although it may not lead to execution like in some countries, you still don’t want to end up in a Dubai prison for drugs. Possession in Dubai doesn’t just mean having it on your person, but it can even be in your bloodstream. In Dubai, all painkillers and even poppy seeds are extremely illegal and even having them in your system upon arrival into the country can lead to imprisonment. However, although they typically release foreigners before serving their full sentence for drug possession, you can still spend up to a year in one of their prisons while locals aren’t so lucky.
In Sudan, women are forbidden to wear trousers, much like in North Korea. To do otherwise is a serious offense against sharia law and can result in physical punishment. In 2014, nine women were faced with the potential of 40 lashes for the crime of wearing what was described as western-style pants. This was only on a specific example, as punishments such as this are carried out in the name of sharia law each day. Although women are usually at the wrong end of indecency punishments, men are not safe either.
In China, going against the government, producing anti-government propaganda, or participating in protests is taken extremely seriously. Today, China still holds the record for the highest number of executions in the world, more than all of the other countries combined. It is estimated that around 2,400 individuals were executed in 2014, which is nothing compared to the 10,000 executed in 2003. Among the many things that are illegal, it is a crime to put Western ideas into the minds of the Chinese youth, the media is controlled, and so is access to the internet. It is highly illegal to discuss rebellion, change, reform, and all those that do may not be around for much longer.
In Saudi Arabia, much like Iran, the Muslim faith helps dictate the country’s laws, especially when regarding women. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to be seen in public with a man that isn’t someone in their family. Furthermore, they must follow a strict dress code based on the Muslim faith and the punishment for breaking any of these religious laws male or female can be seen as harsh by some. Above most other laws, participating in protests is highly forbidden and punishable by death. In September 2017, the country said it will now allow women to drive, which is a small step in lessening the oppression of Saudi women.
In North Korea, television, radio, and print are all censored by the government. Internet access is a privilege given only to the elite and even their online usage is monitored. You are not allowed to loiter in parks, you must be able to validate your every move, pre-marital sex is prohibited, and there is a strict fashion code in which women are not allowed to wear pants and men must cut their hair every two weeks.
In Malaysia, when it comes to drugs and drug trafficking, they take their laws and punishments very seriously. In the country, there is a mandatory death penalty for anyone that is caught with more than seven ounces of marijuana, or half an ounce of heroin. Having these kinds of amounts labels you as a drug trafficker in many of the Southeast Asian countries which is a title you do not want to have. Having any fewer amounts of such substances will result in penalties such as expensive fines, or lengthy prison sentences. These laws apply to anyone regardless of nationality as three Uzbekistan nationals were sentenced to death in 2013.
Due to the conflict between the Syrian government and the rebels within the country, the Syrian regime has resorted to a communication blackout. The government has almost completely banned the use of technology and social media. Cell phones and computers are very rare to find and all publications must be approved by the government before released to the public. Foreign journalists are also not allowed into the country, so it is hard to get an unbiased glimpse as to what is going on. Speaking ill of the Syrian government can lead to harsh punishments such as imprisonment, torture, and potentially even death. It is even suspected that the Syrian government conducted chemical attacks on their own civilians in April 2017.
In Iran, laws are not based on philosophical beliefs but instead are structured around Shariah or Islamic Law. Because of this, there are many laws that have been put in place that make Iran an extremely patriarchal society. The country is very conservative and women, in particular, must adhere to a somewhat strict dress code. For example, women must wear hijabs at all times to cover their hair, skinny jeans are forbidden, and coats or tunics are expected to cover your rear end.
In Iran, a woman’s testimony is only worth half that of a man since it is in compliance with the Sharia basis of the legal system. This was seen in October 2014 when Reyhaneh Jabari was hanged at the age of 26 for stabbing her would-be rapist. The government refused to investigate her claims that she acted in self-defense and was sentenced to death.