Malawi May Pass a Fart Law

Controversy is bubbling up in Malawi thanks to a politician who has decided to push a questionable interpretation of a clean air rule from 1929.

The old law states: “Any person who voluntarily vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious to the health of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.”

It is hard to see why Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister George Chaponda would want to broaden the meaning of these words. “Noxious to the health” is far from being anything farted. His misapplication of the terms is made clear when he explains his motives:

The government has a right to ensure public decency. We are entitled to introduce order in the country.

That right/entitlement to decency does not come from the law he has chosen — one that says it is a misdemeanor to make the air noxious to health.

Enforcement brings some obvious problems as well and further emphasizes the problem. The ability to detect things like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, cyanide was developed after many years of lab tests on people who were killed by them. A lack of harm from farts makes reliable detection, let alone prevention, impossible.

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