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13 Weird Laws in Jamaica

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer



Jamaican Law Books
Photo: Laws of Jamaica

One of my favourite pastimes is to search for weird laws in different parts of the world, for example, it is illegal to work at the same company as your twin to avoid confusion. This got me thinking, are there any such laws in Jamaica? Unsurprisingly, I found quite a few in the Towns and Communities Act and I’ve decided to share them with you.
  1. It is Illegal to wear camouflage - I have heard this ever since I was a child but to see actual proof of this is quite funny seeing that many (myself included) own many camouflage items. It might seem strange at first but the law is actually for a good reason. Camouflage is the official uniform of the Jamaica Defence Force and so, to avoid confusing a civilian for a member of law enforcement, the wearing of camouflage is prohibited. Other Caribbean islands have also banned the wearing of camouflage.

  2. It is illegal to sell rope after 6 pm - I am not entirely sure why this is the case, but it is in fact illegal to sell rope after 6 pm so be sure to make all rope purchases by 5:59 pm.

  3. It is illegal to smoke marijuana in Jamaica - This isn’t weird because Jamaica is the only country that prohibits the use of the drug, it is weird because Jamaica is often associated with the use of marijuana and so many would think we can smoke it openly and freely. This is not the case, in fact, it was only recently that the drug was decriminalized. However, this only means you will not get a criminal charge for a small amount of weed. If you are caught with more than the permitted amount, it will be confiscated and you will be fined.

  4. It is illegal to be buried after 6 pm - Burials must be done by 6 pm or it will have to be moved to another day.

  5. It is illegal to get married after 6 pm - I am not sure what the significance of 6 pm is but there sure is a lot that cannot be done after here after 6 pm. This doesn’t mean your reception has to be completed before 6 pm, the wedding ceremony and the signing of the marriage certificate must be completed before this time though.

  6. “Move and keep on moving” - If a police officer tells you to “move and keep on moving” it means you should walk away from the area and carry on about your business, don’t be seen loitering around the area anymore. So don’t keep walking around the area or you will be arrested.

  7. It is illegal to be found drunk and laying on the ground - According to section 8 of the Act, persons who are found drunk and laying on the street, building or other public domain has committed an offence and can be fined $4 or spend 10 days in jail for the offence of being "Found Drunk in the Street".

  8. It is illegal to disturb someone by ringing a doorbell - I might be oversimplifying here, but anyone who wilfully disturbs the inhabitants of a building by ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door without a lawful excuse, or extinguishes the light of any lamp or unlawfully enters any premises to the annoyance of the inhabitants has committed and offence.

  9. It is illegal to shake or beat a rug, mat or carpet before 8 am unless it is a doormat. Enough said.

  10. It is illegal to operate businesses on Sundays, Christmas Day and Boxing Day - I always wondered why shops would be closed all day on Sundays or just have a single-window open. According to Section 16 of the Act, all businesses should be closed on these days or the owner may be convicted. Pharmacies are, however, permitted to be open between 8 am and 12 midnight on Sundays for the sale of any article and the same time on Christmas Day and Good Friday for the sale of any drug.

    The shops operating within the two major airports are also permitted to open along with houses designed to accommodate travellers and the sale of motor fuel (gas). Other exceptions to this law are businesses selling bread or ice, public markets and establishments that print newspapers. However, if the newspaper printery will be open, it must be before 10 am and after 5 pm on these days. Breaking this law could mean a fine of $20 or imprisonment for 30 days.

  11. It is illegal to sign official documents on Weekends - Many Jamaicans have a story of going to see a Justice of the Peace for him/her to sign a document for you and getting told to come during the week, not on a weekend. Once again, it must be done before 6 pm.

  12. It is illegal to empty any privy between the hours of 4 am and 10 pm - Before the days of indoor toilets, bedpans would be emptied outdoors. This law spoke to the times that you were allowed to empty bedpans.

  13. It is illegal to have a pigsty to the front of a major road - As someone who has had the inauspicious privilege of smelling a pigsty, I think we should be grateful for this law. It is illegal to have a pigsty to the front of a thoroughfare within a town without it being properly shut out from the public by a wall or fence. This is to keep the pigs from getting loose and disrupting the area as well as how unsightly and smelly a pigsty can get at times.
What I have realised is that many of these laws were adopted from British Law since we were once a colony. As weird (and outdated) as a few of these are, they all served a purpose for the time they were written in. Don’t worry though, times have changed so you won’t be reprimanded for purchasing rope after 6 pm or opening your store on a Sunday.

If you would like to read some of these laws on your own, they can be found on the official website for the Ministry of Justice of Jamaica https://moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/Towns%20and%20Communities%20Act.pdf.

I also recommend you read, Why Is The Title for Land Not In The Owner's Name?.

Regards,
SS

References:
  • Ministry of Justice, https://moj.gov.jm/
  • THE TOWNS AND COMMUNITIES ACT, Ministry of Justice, https://moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/Towns%20and%20Communities%20Act.pdf.

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