- Prohibition of death
Prohibition of death consists of a political
social phenomenonand tabooin which a law is passed stating that it is illegalto die in a certain political divisionor in a specific building.
The earliest case of prohibition of death occurred in the 5th century, in the Greek island of
Delosand for religious reasons.
Nowadays, in most cases, the phenomenon has occurred as a satirical protest to the posture of the governments of not approving the expansion of municipal cemeteries with no more space for additional corpses. In
Spainone town has prohibited death, in Francethere have been a few settlements which have had death prohibited, whilst in a town in Brazil, an attempt at prohibition of death is currently taking place.
Death has been prohibited in the Andalucian town of
Lanjarón. [http://www.stiffs.com/backoct99.html Spanish Mayor Outlaws Death (bottom of page)] ] The village, with 4,000 inhabitants, is to remain with this law until the government buys land for a new cemetery. The mayor who issued the edict explains that the awkward new law is his response to politicians urging him to do a quick fix of a long lasting problem.
Prohibition of death has occurred in three settlements in southern France:
Cugnaux, [http://weirdglobenews.com/forbidden_to_die_because_of_lack_of_room.html Forbidden to die in Cugnaux because of lack of room] ] Le Lavandou, [http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=759454 It is now illegal to die in Le Lavandou] ] and Sarpourenx, [http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSL0552076620080305 Cemetery of Sarpourenx full, mayor tells locals not to die] ] of which the mayor was inspired to pass the law due to the success of the mayor of Cugnaux in acquiring more space for tombstones in the village. [http://www.citizen.co.za/index/article.aspx?pDesc=59885,1,22 French village of Sarpourenx bans death] ] Ever since the law was passed in Sarpourenx, the village, with 240 inhabitants, has had just one death in all 2007. Still, unlike its predecessor, it has not yet obtained approval for expanding the cemetery.
The situation in Cugnaux had been a bit different though. About 60 people died there per year and the cemetery was indeed full, leaving as the only area free of charge which could qualify as an extension to the current cemetery at that time a portion of land bordering an
ammunitiondepot of military barracks, which meant a danger of deflagrationand, henceforth, no approval from the government to build the extension there, until the government finally approved the land.
About 20 towns in Brazil have faced exhaustion of capacity of cemeteries for more corpses, of which one of them is attempting to directly prohibit death:
Biritiba-Mirim; of which the town's mayor has filed a bill, specifically a public bill, to make it illegal for the people living in the town to die. Though no specific punishments have been presented, the mayor intends to target relatives of people who die with fines and even jail if necessary, in order to get more space for tombstones somehow.
The main reason for the attempt to pass such a law with such severe punishments if broken is that the town's 28,000 inhabitants apparently do not look after their health properly, making them more vulnerable to death, which would mean having to bury more corpses in the already full cemetery. Since the cemetery was inaugurated in 1910, over 50,000 people have been buried in 3,500 crypts and tombs. In November 2005, the cemetery was declared to be full and 20 recently deceased residents were forced to share a crypt, and several others were buried under the walkways.
The mayor, in order to support his uncommon proposal for a law, stated that 89% of the town is occupied by rivers, of which most are underground and serve as vital water sources for nearly two million people living in
São Paulo, and that the remaining percent is protected because it consists of tropical jungle. So, public land with five times the size of the cemetery was set aside to provide space for a new one, of which environmental experts claim that it will not affect water tables or surrounding tropical forest. The environment council decided to analyze such a solution carefully, while the state government had agreed to help build a new vertical cemetery; but, up to now, nothing has been done, and the law has not yet been passed, leaving the situation in suspense. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4527868.stm Brazil city of Biritiba Mirim proposes ban on death] ] [http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_1641442.html Mayor of Biritiba Mirim wants to ban death] ] [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10454687/ No room at cemetery, so mayor in Biritiba Mirim proposes a ban on death] ]
In the United Kingdom
It is often thought to be illegal to die in the
Palace of Westminster, where Parliament sits, and other royal palaces. There is no piece of legislation that states a person cannot die in the Palace; however, any person who does so might be eligible for a funeral at royal expense.cite web|url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/06/nlaws106.xml|title= Don't die in parliament, it's the law |accessdate= 2008-03-04|author= |date= 2007-11-06|work= The Daily Telegraph|publisher= The Daily Telegraph] Prime minister Spencer Percevaldied in the lobby of the House of Commons after being assassinated there on May 11, 1812. Other deaths on the premises are said to have taken place at St. Thomas' Hospital, the nearest hospital to the palace.cite web|url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/81960.stm|title= You Can't Do That! |accessdate= 2008-03-04|author= |date= 2005-08-30|work= BBC News|publisher= BBC]
The island of
Deloshas had death, along with birth, prohibited in order to "purify" the island, henceforth rendering it fit for the proper worship of the gods. This was mainly due to the fact that at that time it was considered sacred and holy for the ancient Greeks. The prohibition was made by the tyrant Pisistratus, of the city-state of Athens, who had first ordered that all graves within sight of the island's temple be dug up and the bodies removed to perimeter locations and then, under instruction from the Delphic Oracle, that the entire island be purged of all dead bodies.
Media and people's responses
Though the passing of the law is commonly perceived as a laughing matter by most of the world, several villagers involved in the possibility of breaking the law have expressed their concerns clearly. "I haven't got a job, nor am I healthy. And now they say I can't die. That's ridiculous" said a man in
Biritiba-Mirim, and "It may be a laughing matter for some, but not for me" was expressed by a 70 year old man from Sarpourenx.
Still, in not all cases have the villagers expressed complaints and negative responses to such a law. For instance, in the case of
Lanjarón, the edict has become wildly popular within the people, and even amongst political opponents of the mayor who issued the law, and was received with a sense of humor from most.
The aide to the mayor of Biritiba-Mirim summarized the situation of the possibility of making death illegal in the following way:
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