On this day in 1562, kissing in public was banned and punishable by death in Naples, Italy.
Throughout history, controlling sex and obscenity, and occasionally containing disease, have made for some eyebrow-raising laws. On 16 July 1439, King Henry VI banned kissing in England. In this case, King Henry was trying to curtail the spread of disease in his kingdom. His subjects, however, would not have it, and his ban failed.
On 9 March 1562, kissing in public was banned in Naples, Italy. If authorities caught philandering couples kissing in public, the act was punishable by death. In this case, again, authorities were more concerned about public health than morality. A second plague was spreading through Europe like wildfire, and leaders were doing anything in their power to blunt the epidemic—including killing those who kissed. Unfortunately, the law seemed to do little to prevent the spread of the plague, which ultimately claimed the lives of large swaths of Europe.
That was just the beginning of the curious kissing laws. In 1910, France banned kissing on French railways because it could cause delays. In 1982, the Iranian Parliament listed “kissing for pleasure” as a list of outlawed moral offenses. In 1991, students at Peking University, China, were banned from kissing, holding hands, hugging, whispering, or holding unauthorised gatherings. And in 2003, Moscow considered a ban on kissing in public places, a ban that would have included even legally married couples and punished the act with fines and jail time. This time, citizens fought back, protesting the proposed law by kissing perfect strangers on the street in a show of defiance. The proposed law was eventually abandoned.
Credit: © The Art Gallery Collection / Alamy
Caption: To curtail the spread of disease, kissing in public was banned in Naples, Italy.