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6 Archaic Laws That Still Exist (And One That Doesn’t)

6 Archaic Laws That Still Exist (And One That Doesn’t)

Until the start of February, if women wore pants in Paris they were supposed to get permission from city authorities first.

Yes, if you were a female, wearing jeans on the Champs Elysees and hadn’t gotten such approval, you could have been breaking a law that dated back to November 1799 and stipulated that women wishing to wear men’s clothes must first ask Paris authorities. As AFP explains

The decree was passed when the working class fashion of wearing long trousers (as opposed to the aristocratic knee-length “culottes”) became a symbol of the French revolution. The rule therefore symbolically barred women from the revolutionary rank and file, known at the time as the “sans-culottes.”

After 200 years, the ban was amended so that women could wear “pantalons” if they were “holding the handlebars of a bicycle or the reins of a horse.” Then, in 2010, members of the Green Party sought to remove the law from the archives of the Paris Prefecture. They were rebuffed on the grounds that doing so would be a “waste of time.”

Last year, a member of Parliament from the opposition UMP party again sought to remove the law. This time, her request was followed through on and the 1799 law has been declared null and void and a “museum piece.”

Around the world, a number of laws that are truly archaeological relics remain on the books, dusty reminders that rules that had seemed so necessary can, in the course of history, quite outlive their time.

1. If you are Scottish, carrying a bow and arrow and within the ancient walls of the city of York, you can legally be killed, says an admittedly out-of-date law. This discriminatory law (like many antiquated ones) is currently under review to be scrapped.

2. In India, a 1937 law bans people with epilepsy or psychological disabilities from flying. That is, individuals with disabilities in India are still subject to rules that are nearly a century old, as Disability News Asia points out. Passengers say that the outmoded law has been used by some airlines to prevent elderly passengers from boarding an aircraft while a woman with cerebral palsy was prevented from getting on a flight in Ghosh because the airline did not understand that her disability was not included under the 1937 law.

3. Under a U.K. law dating back to 1307, the head of any dead whale that washes up on the British coast belongs to the king and the tail to the queen, should she need the bones for a corset. A sign of changing times is that now our concern would not at all be for who gets the parts of the whale, but for how did the animal die and who might be responsible?

4. It is illegal for unmarried couples to live together in Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and Virginia where what is being called a “love shack” bill has been introduced to repeal a very clearly archaic law — sounds like the other states need to do the same, too.

5. In New Jersey, rams can run free, except between August 20 to November 1. Lawmakers are trying to strike this relic from the legal code. It is high time, since New Jersey’s agricultural past survives mostly in its being called “the Garden State” as in the “Garden State Parkway” (which is a major highway running north and south down the length of the state to the Jersey Shore).

6. Since 1847, Londoners have been banned from keeping a pigsty in front of their house and from slaughtering cattle in the street. Since 1867, it has also been illegal to drive cows down the roadway unless one has permission from the Commissioner of Police. One suspects that sanitation and public health were part of the rationale for these laws. These are similar concerns as the European Union had in calling for a ban on cars from London and all other cities across Europe by 2050.

Such a law keeping cars out of cities makes a great deal of sense to us now. But could it, like a law requiring Parisian women to seek police permission to wear pants, seem absurd one day?


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12:16PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

No doubt some male chauvinists are still afraid of women "wearing the pants". Pun intended:)

2:34PM PDT on May 14, 2013

I laughed a little :) thanks

8:57AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

Interesting thanks

3:37AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

Funny. I think lawmakers should review ancient laws and remove them from the books.

8:21PM PST on Feb 18, 2013


2:11AM PST on Feb 17, 2013

Thanks for sharing

4:27PM PST on Feb 16, 2013

I presume the York law about Scotsman carrying bow and arrows needs updating to say Scotsman carrying bagpies?

4:21PM PST on Feb 16, 2013

The law about cows needing permission is not totally outdated. Some people have Commoner's Rights still which allow farm animals to be "Drove" on old Drove routes. Drove here means walked along a route. Each year commoners' use Drove rights to walk sheep [past?] the London Stock Exchange

1:13PM PST on Feb 16, 2013


11:34AM PST on Feb 16, 2013


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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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