There’s little doubt that Africa is one of the most mysterious places on Earth. This enormous continent is home to more than 1.2 billion people and is blessed with some of the most beautiful sceneries. With sites like the planet’s oldest meteor scar, the wonders of folded mountains, and the ancient rocks of Barberton, Africa is an extremely charming place. It also offers one-of-a-kind experiences including sunset safaris, swimming with whale sharks, and of course the annual Great Migration. However, visitors should also be prepared for severe cultural shock. Strange foods, strange rituals and strange centuries-old traditions. What you see in documentaries is merely a tip of the iceberg of the bizarreness that comes out of this civilization. Due to their colonial-era bureaucracies, legal systems, and prolonged poverty, African countries also have countless ridiculous laws. Okay, each American state has its own quirky laws, but these countries truly dial the “weirdness” metre to a shocking 10.
We have prepared 15 of the most bizarre laws in Africa. Act with caution and don’t let your eye-opening trip to Africa also open the gates to jail.
15. Weird Traffic Regulations
Traffic laws are the most basic form of laws and Africa already excels in bringing out the bizarreness. Urban planning isn’t the best in North American cities and traffic can occasionally get hectic. However, they manage fine with effective traffic control. Conversely, South Africa has enacted a curfew that banned all heavy vehicles on the road during specific hours of the day. This can be counterintuitive, as some of these transport crucially needed supplies to less accessible parts of the developing nation. Ever seen ducks and geese cross the road? Well, livestock also has an official right of way in South Africa. Not all animals have this privilege however, only horses, mules, donkey, goats, pigs and…ostriches. Violating this during any time at any location would result in a hefty fine of almost US$300. Moreover, no matter how agitated you get at drivers or animals, it is illegal for you to swear or flip the bird whilst on Kenyan roads.
14. Regulation on (Non-Existent) Bears
Legislation bans tourists and locals from interacting with bears in South Africa. Bear wrestling is illegal and you cannot participate in the organising or viewing of this activity. Whilst it isn’t illegal to keep bears as “domestic” pets, it is expressly against the law to bring them into the public or onto private beaches. This may be reasonable in North American towns, however bears are not native to the African continent and not one single bear has walked the lands of the Sub-Saharan region for more than 1 million years. From where does the government of South Africa expect these bears to come from? Maybe migrant bears from abroad flying business class. South Africa’s bear laws will remain one of most bizarre mysteries of mankind.
13. Naming Restrictions
The right to naming babies or objects is restricted in many African countries. In North America and the majority of the world, you are free to name your children anything you like, so long as it isn’t offensive or politically incorrect. You’ve probably heard about the urban legend of a mother naming her child “Le-a” (pronounced “Le-da-sha”). In contrast, Moroccan locals can only choose baby names from an approved list. In ruling out all Western names, this law aims at preserving local traditions. Equatorial Guinea is further specific about this in making it illegal to name your child “Monica”. In addition, you can name your car, boat or any other object anything you like in the Western world. Conversely, in Sudan, it is a serious crime to name an inanimate object after famous Islam religious figures. So you can be severely punished for naming your coffee mug “Muhammad” …
12. Wear the Right Clothes
Dress codes come with legal effect and severe penalties in Africa. In parts of the continent, wearing prohibited clothing can get you behind bars. Camouflage is an all-time men’s favourite around the world but it is expressly banned in almost everywhere in Africa. Even where this isn’t illegal, careless tourist wearing military style may face detention upon suspicion that they are associated with local rebel forces. Also, in countries such as Morocco, Sudan and Ghana, it is paramount for women to abide by conservative dressing standards. Tourists are encouraged to show as less skin as possible and avoid singlets and miniskirts at all costs. In addition, in Sudan, women are only permitted to wear dresses and must always have their hair covered up. Strangest of all however, Madagascar makes it against the law for pregnant women to wear hats. You can truly say that picking an outfit is a life-or-death decision in Africa.
11. Snap Your Life Away
The majority of African countries regulate the basic tourist act of photo taking. The government dictates exactly how you should capture your memories and what memories should be avoided. In particular, they are especially sensitive about government buildings. For example, in South Africa, you cannot take a photo of the President’s residence. Likewise, tourists in Morocco, Egypt and Zimbabwe are banned from taking photos of political or military establishments. Chad makes it even more straightforward – no photos of any kind can be taken without obtaining an official permit. The difficult thing here, is that these buildings sometimes do not have visible signs and tourists may take a photo of them without realising the implications. It is also an unofficial rule that if you must pay locals a small tip before you can photograph them. With these in mind, tourists are reminded not to snap away too quickly as their shots can have serious consequences.
10. Widespread, Intense Censorship
Many African countries consider knowledge itself to be a sin and they enforce censorship with a heavy hand. An alarming total of 17 African countries are currently governed by a dictatorship and many additional others are facing political unrest. As such, censorship is essential in ensuring political stability and knowing too much is a sure-fire way to get arrested. Perhaps you would like to watch the local news through a TV? Well, you can’t in South Africa without first obtaining a TV license. Regardless of how you communicate with your friends, there’s no escape from government censorship. Phones are frequently tapped, text messages are archived and even online messages are monitored. “Voice Over Internet” technologies, such as Skype, can potentially bypass censorship, but they have been recently criminalised. In Ethiopia, for instance, users can face up to 15 years of imprisonment. No country beats Equatorial Guinea though, who effectively rules all information as illegal by officially discouraging the locals from learning and reading. What a total disgrace.
9. Strange Marriages
Africans seem to have their own awkward interpretation of marriage. In contrary to Western traditions, polygamy is highly common in Africa. In fact, just last year, Eritrea shocked the entire world through introducing legislation which made it mandatory for men to marry at least 2 wives. Loyal Eritreans who refuse to do so would face life imprisonment. Moreover, there are also not one, but 3 types of marriages in South Africa. The same country is also considering a bill which would force women to consent to polygamous marriages. Even child marriages, an absolutely no-go in the Western world, are permitted in Nigeria, whose 13 states are yet to stipulate a minimum age of marriage. At the same time however, Nigeria is also very serious about its marriages, Here, you can issue a legal order prohibiting a person from marrying you, and you can be sued for not committing to a promise to marry someone.
8. Extreme Religious Restrictions
With modernization and industrialization taking off only decades ago, Africa’s conservatismis best reflected in its laws on religion. Most African nations have strict Muslim laws which safeguards the Islamic faith. This is particularly apparent in Morocco, where non-Islamic religious materials cannot be brought into the country and the preaching of these religions is a serious offence. Similar restrictions apply in Egypt. Furthermore, in Mauritania, renunciation of Islamic faith is punishable by death and the confiscation of all property. Needless to say, don’t ever criticize or insult Islam in Africa, or you would be risking your life. Even the more progressive countries, such as Eritrea, only allow its citizens to practice mainstream, “registered” religions. Reports suggest that followers of less popular disciplines, such as Jehovah’s Witness, faced arrest and prosecution for their beliefs. All in all, religion is an especially sensitive topic in Africa, and tourists are advised to keep their beliefs to themselves.
7. Illegal to be Gay
Whilst other countries continue to move towards marriage equality, there is absolutely no place for homosexuality in Africa. Federal legislation stipulates homosexuality to be a crime in most African states. Various developing nations, such as Algeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya and Libya expressly declares homosexuality to be illegal. There, sexual interactions between two persons of the same sex, especially if performed in public, attract a heavy penalty of up to 14 years of imprisonment. At the other end of the scale, other African countries approach homosexuality with greater subtlety and instead captures it under catch-all definitions. For instance, it is a “scandalous act” in Egypt and “deviate sexual intercourse” in Liberia. Sure, some places are more tolerant of diverse sexuality, however, their legal system nonetheless permits discrimination of persons solely based on their sexual orientation. Chad providers the best illustration for this, where the oppression of homosexuals by the police is a common incidence.
6. Bid Farewell to Weed
Tourists are advised to never get high in Africa. Recreational drugs have caused chaos in many African countries in recent decades and authorities are now cracking down with an iron fist. The possession of the smallest amount of narcotics is punishable by many years of imprisonment. This is clearly the case in Ghana, who prescribes a prison sentence of at least 5 years. This prohibition also universally applies to both the wealthy and poor, given the country’s strict no bail policy on drug related offences. Admittedly, drug supplying or trafficking would result in capital punishment. No country hates weed more than Morocco. Not only you can’t be a stoner, you are also discouraged from befriending stoners. If anyone you travel with is arrested for the possession of substances, you would also be liable for the same crime.
5. Women are Second Class Citizens
Africa is centuries behind the rest of the world in gender equality. In various African countries, women are nothing more than their men’s personal property. They are just a little more valuable than livestock. Inequality is particularly apparent in Swaziland; whose monarch King Mswati III is world infamous for his shameless discrimination against women. Other African states merely dislike women wearing pants, but in this ultra-sexist nation, women wearing trousers would be stripped naked and have their trousers torn into pieces by the military. Furthermore, this reckless dictator also attempted to enact a law which forces all young girls to wear chastity belts. Yes, medieval chastity belts in the 21st century. Other African countries are nowhere as barbaric as Swaziland, but nonetheless sees women as legal minors. For example, even in the more progressive South Africa, some women are barred from owning land, opening a bank account or working outside their home without their husband’s permission. Unmarried South African women also assume all legal responsibility for children, unless their men consent to otherwise. It goes without saying that female tourists should take additional care when visiting this side of the globe.
4. Prohibition on hanky panky
Sex or anything remotely associated with it is considered taboo on this side of the globe. Two unmarried persons of the opposite gender cannot appear together in public. This is the case in Sudan, where they cannot sit together without a third person, and also in South Africa, where they must stay at least 2 metres apart if they are both in swimming outfits. On that note, yes, there’s a popular tourist attraction named “Cuddle Puddle” in Swaziland, but don’t get too excited. You can be arrested for anything more intimate than an innocent hug. Needless to say, pornographic content of any kind and sex toys are strictly forbidden in most of Africa. Most bizarre of all however, adultery is recognised as a deadly offence. For example, in Morocco, two unmarried persons, whether they are tourists or citizens, can be face jail time for engaging in sexual behaviour. To regulate this, Moroccan hotels only provide accommodation to couples upon sighting proof of marriage.
3. Burn All Witches
The term “witch hunt” has a very literal meaning in some parts of Africa. Due to historical reasons and the general backward nature of the continent, many Africans still believe in the danger of witchcraft. Official anti-witch legislations are in place and anyone who found to be a witch or claims to practice witchcraft could be horrendously punished. Nigeria is relatively tamed in this regard, in prescribing up to 2 years of imprisonment for this offence. Swaziland is likewise mild in disallowing witches to fly broomsticks above 150 metres. On the other hand, in many remote villages across the continent, witch hunts are no laughing matter and occur on a regular basis. There are no real witches of course. Instead, elderly women, who are usually living alone, are labelled as such and are mercilessly lynched. Widows easily become targeted and often flee the village upon any signs of suspicion. It is absolutely mind-boggling to think that such a bloodthirsty practice still exists.
2. Criminals Walk Free
Without a doubt, the most outlandish law in Africa is its tolerance of sexual harassment. In conservative Islamic African countries where premarital intercourse is strictly forbidden, rape victims can be charged with crimes. For instance, in Sudan, women can be publically whipped and shamed for this reason. As made evident in various court cases, local judges readily accept any allegations from the perpetuator surrounding provocation and consent. This judicial bias is evident in Swaziland, whose dictator, King Mswati III, has resolved to ban women from dressing “proactively” to prevent rape. Think justice would be served if there’s undeniable evidence? No. In numerous African countries, including Morocco and Egypt, rapists can avoid all legal consequences through marrying the victim of his crime. This is completely bizarre and inhumane, as the victim would be subject to violation for the entirety of her marriage. Having said these, Africa might have the bluest sky in the world, but it is a gravely dark place for women.
1. Just Plain Weird!
Whilst the laws mentioned above are mostly serious matters, there is also an endless list of silly African laws which are just plain weird. Releasing some air on the streets? Yes, farting is illegal in Malawi under its “Air Fouling Legislation”. Carrying old chewing gum around? Checked, you can’t do that in Somalia if you stick it to your nose. Setting up a mousetrap in your budget Moroccan hotel? You better also eat the mouse for dinner, because killing mice is only legal for consumption purposes. Perhaps as an experienced traveller you would prepare for your trip by exchanging currency in advance? Not a chance if you’re visiting Morocco which prohibits any local currency exceeding US$100 from entering or leaving the country. On the flip side of the coin, it is also illegal to walk around with no money in Kenya. Every single one of these “laws” simply defiles all common sense and human logic.
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!