Brazil has a compulsion for (useless) laws – 6/5/2023 – Becky S. Korich

In the middle of 2023, the digital age, electric cars, smart technology, we still have to come across the sign: “Warning to passengers: before entering the elevator, check that it is stopped on this floor.”

This very important law of the state of São Paulo from 1997, first of all, contains grammatical errors. Those who transport “passengers” are planes, trains, ships. “Parado”, in the sentence, is a good example of redundancy, because if the same (sic) is on the floor, it is because he is not going up or down. And “is found” may seem fancy, but the correct pronoun would be “if” to be before the verb. That sign is emblematic of all the absurd laws we have to mull over.

I don’t know what you were doing last Wednesday (31), but you probably violated a federal law: Law 13.645/2018, which instituted the last Wednesday of May as National Challenge Day and determined that we should celebrate it by practicing some physical activity for at least 15 minutes.

Other curious examples. In Dom Joaquim (MG), it is forbidden to watch plays while wearing a hat (Law 709/2000, article 71, sole paragraph). In Guarujá (SP), there is a fine for spelling or concordance errors on billboards or graffiti (Law 2602/1998 art. 3). In São Paulo, bars, snack bars and restaurants are obliged to make bitter coffee available to customers (Law 10.297/1999). As can be seen, there are cases in which the law itself is a Socratic mockery of itself.

Even relevant and urgent laws, such as the Federal Law on Environmental Crimes, have obtuse provisions. This law provides for an aggravating factor if the crime is committed on Sundays or holidays (art. 15, ‘h’), as if nature needed rest only on holidays. When it comes to environmental crime, the aggravating factors must be applied for every day of the year.

Another relevant regulation, which aims to protect our health, issued by the Sanitary Surveillance, establishes so many prohibitions for food handlers, that only being a robot can comply:

“During food handling, it is forbidden to: talk, sing, whistle, cough, sneeze, spit on the products; chew gum, toothpicks, matches or similar; suck candies, eat or try food with your hands; touch the body, put the finger in the nose, ear, blow your nose, touch your hair or comb your hair; dry your sweat with your hands, cloths or any part of your clothing; smoke; touch doorknobs, cell phones or any other object unrelated to the activity; use dirty utensils and equipment; handling money and performing other acts that may contaminate food” (Ordinance No. 5/2013). Detail: the same law prohibits the use of nasobuccal masks.

The Brazilian legislature has a compulsion for laws. There are more than one hundred thousand laws in force, an exorbitant amount compared to other countries. How many are fulfilled?

Surveys indicate that the vast majority of Brazilians believe it is easy to disobey the law. It couldn’t be different because an order with so many laws trivializes its purposes. The abundance of rules does not make a country fairer. On the contrary, it weakens the legal security of citizens, obfuscating and compromising the functionality of essential laws. As Montesquieu rightly said, “useless laws weaken necessary ones”.

While deputies who are paid by us meet to discuss the taste of coffee in bars and restaurants, fundamental principles of the Constitution —such as the right to health, housing, difference, childhood and work— are violated in our face, all the days. Justice is only viable through clear, concise legislation that, above all, is connected to society.

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