The day they banned kissing

Coming out of the coronavirus pandemic we’re well aware of restrictions designed to prevent the spread of this deadly virus, and we’ve been fortunate to have modern medicine to help us. But in sixteenth-century Europe a second, deadly round of plague was spreading like wildfire and city officials across Europe desperately sought methods of prevention against the fearsome epidemic.

On this day (9 March) in 1562, the authorities in Naples believed that one way to battle against the spread of the disease was to ban kissing in public. They took the law so seriously that couples caught kissing could be punished by death.

It wasn’t the first time that a city had enforced such a strict law on public displays of affection. In 1439, Henry VI banned kissing in England in another attempt to prevent infection from spreading. People refused to accept the ban and it was subsequently lifted. Bans of this nature were also imposed during more modern times. In 1910, kissing was banned at railway stations in France, in the belief that lovers, family and friends saying their goodbyes caused delays to the train service. In 1982, kissing for ‘pleasure’ was outlawed in Iran, and similarly in 1992 students at Qingdao Binhai University in China were prevented from openly displaying any form of affection, including holding hands or sharing earphones. Most recently in 2003, to the horror of the general public, a law was passed in Moscow enforcing a ban on kissing in public, imposed on all members of society. This was intended to raise levels of public morality. People of Moscow defied the ban by kissing complete strangers and the proposed law was eventually abandoned. Source

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