Spanking, dancing and mullets: Legal in Singapore


Most of us here might think of Singapore as a very restrictive country in terms of artistic license, or personal expression. However, here are some things that are actually banned in certain countries, but are totally fine on any day here.


Valentine’s Day
While it’s not uncommon for Singaporean couples celebrate VDay with a romantic overpriced dinner somewhere posh, it’s not at all a rosy affair in Saudi Arabia, parts of Pakistan and Indonesia. To them, celebrating it is a crime akin to spreading ‘decadent Western culture’, and as such, it’s been banned. They conduct raids that confiscate any gifts, flowers, chocolates, or anything related to symbols of love.


For a country so famous for its entertainment, it isn’t actually legal to dance in Japan. You even can’t dance at a nightclub unless it has a license, and even so you can only dance till midnight. While the rule is not strictly enforced, the ban will legally be lifted sometime this year so clubbers can finally twerk the night away. However, it’s not the case with Sweden, which still has a standing ban on spontaneous dancing – nightclubs in Sweden need a special dancing license or face a fine. What a party pooper.


Gender-Specific Names
Here in Singapore, it’s hard to determine from some people’s given names if they’re female or male. Luckily for us, it’s not illegal to have gender ambiguous names – not so in Germany, where babies cannot have unisex names (ie. Alex, Sam). Your given name must indicate your gender and, it cannot be named after a surname (ie. Anderson, Johnson). To do so, you’ll actually need to challenge the rules through expensive appeals at a government office.


Have you ever been irritated by cigarette smoke wafting in your face at bus stops or while walking along the street? It doesn’t happen in Bhutan, where it’s illegal to sell cigarettes. Unlike Singapore’s chewing gum ban, Bhutan takes their ban very seriously – selling tobacco comes with a 3-5 year prison sentence, and if you really need to smoke, you’ll need a license (and smoke only at designated areas).


Baby Walkers
Who would’ve thunk that baby walkers are banned in Canada (since 2007)? Over here, while not very common, it’s not illegal. Apparently it doesn’t quite do what it’s supposed to do either – it doesn’t help babies learn to walk, and it’s actually the greatest cause of head injuries to kids under 2 years old.


We don’t mean ‘that’ type of spanking – we’re talking about spanking of children. Outlawed in Sweden since 1979, parents who spank their kids will get a knock on their doors from social services. In Singapore, while spanking kids isn’t the norm, you do get the punishment in a rather more severe form: caning, which is reserved for criminals.


Mullets may be more of an attitude statement than a style, but it’s not uncommon to spot a few peeps with them in Singapore. Whether you love the Kentucky Waterfall or hate it with a passion, mullets are officially banned in Iran. According to Iranian culture and religion, it’s considered a ‘Western hairdo’, which also includes gelled spiky hair and fancifully long hair. If you decide to rock into Iran with any of those, you could be fined and your fancy hair will be ‘removed’ by police.

Some countries have banned certain products (that Singaporeans use a lot of) to be more environmentally friendly – plastic bags are banned in many regions, from the Himalayas to Africa, while filament-heated incandescent light bulbs are banned in Cuba and Venezuela.