New Zealand Law Society - Some astonishing laws repealed (or not) a bit later than you might think

Some astonishing laws repealed (or not) a bit later than you might think

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

Japan’s Leprosy Prevention Law

This was repealed in 1996. The final version of this law had been enacted in 1953. It required patients suffering from leprosy – now known as Hansen’s disease – to be forcibly detained in sanatoriums, and also enabled the state to carry out abortions and sterilisation. The sanatoriums were located in remote mountainous areas and on offshore islands and those detained were required to work for little pay. On repeal in 1996, there were 5,413 patients in leprosaria. Their average length of stay had been 40 years and their average age was 72. In 2001, a Japanese court found that the policy of separating Hansen’s disease patients was unconstitutional and should have ceased after effective treatments were developed by the end of the 1950s. The Prime Minister apologised and the state encouraged compensation claims.

Slavery becomes a crime in Mauritania

The Saharan nation of Mauritania “abolished” slavery in 1981 by a presidential decree, but it was not made a crime until 2007. Since then one slave owner – Ahmed Ould El Hassine – has been successfully prosecuted. He received a sentence of two years’ imprisonment and had to pay US$4,700 in compensation. The World Slavery Index estimates that more than 1% of Mauritania’s population of around 4 million is engaged in forced labour (that’s 40,000 people). The official view is that there are no slaves because of the 2007 law. In February 2018, the Washington Post reported that there were 20 lawsuits against slave owners slowly working their way through the Mauritanian justice system.

Australia abolishes the death penalty

On 11 March 2010, with bipartisan support, the Australian Parliament passed the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Act. This amended the Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973 to extend the prohibition on the death penalty to all Australian states and territories – thus stopping the possibility of any individual state jurisdiction reintroducing the death penalty. All states have legislation outlawing the death penalty, with Queensland, perhaps surprisingly, being the first, in 1922, while New South Wales retained the death penalty for treason and piracy until 1985. New Zealand finally abolished the death penalty for treason on 26 December 1989 when the Abolition of the Death Penalty Act 1989 came into force.

Alabama allows interracial marriage…

In 1967 the United States Supreme Court decided that preventing marriage between people of different ethnicities was contrary to the Constitution (Loving v Virginia). While individual states could no longer prosecute people for getting married to someone of another ethnicity, a number retained laws against interracial marriages. South Carolina held out to 1998, and in 2000 Alabama became the last state to amend its constitution to remove a prohibition on interracial marriage.

… but still bans mixed schooling

The state of Alabama’s Constitution, created in 1901, is 388,882 words long (someone counted) and could be the longest constitution in the world. Back in 1954 the US Supreme Court banned racial school segregation (Brown v Board of Education). Section 256 of Alabama’s Constitution requires the state to establish and maintain a public school system. However, it ends: “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.” As recently as 2012 the good old folks of Sweet Home Alabama voted against removing section 256.

Saudi Arabia lets women drive

Saudi Arabia is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, but that doesn’t mean the country is a bastion of equality. It is an absolute monarchy with any change dependent on the king. The influential Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has brought in a number of changes and in September 2017 a royal decree was read on state television which announced that on 24 June 2018 women would be allowed to drive cars. The sky did not fall, and women are now able to drive. They still cannot enter a cemetery, read an uncensored fashion magazine, try on clothes while shopping, swim in public, or complain about domestic violence, travel, get married or sign contracts without a male guardian’s consent, but women are now able to drive in every country in the world.

And back to Japan…

1996 was a big year for law reform in Japan. As well as the Leprosy Prevention Law, the country repealed its Eugenic Protection Law. “The object of this law is to prevent birth of inferior descendants from the standpoint of eugenic protection and to protect the life and health of the mother as well”, it began. Enacted in 1948 to replace a 1940 law, the main provisions allowed the surgical sterilisation of women when they, their spouse or a family member within the fourth degree of kinship had a serious genetic disorder. No consent was required – just approval by the Prefectural Eugenic Protection Council. Between 1948 and 1996 around 25,000 people were sterilised under the law, including 16,500 who did not consent. On 18 June 1996 the law was repealed with passage of the Mother’s Body Protection Law.

Lawyer Listing for Bots