Malawi's flatulence ban causes big stink

04 Feb 2011, 16:06

News reaches The Tank from Malawi where a truly visionary piece of environmental legislation has been proposed.

The southern African nation may have made little impact at the world's major climate change negotiations, but that has not stopped it boldly going it alone and drafting the world's first anti-farting legislation. Well, at least the first that doesn't involve livestock.

The Local Courts Bill, set to be introduced next week, reads: "Any person who vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious to the public 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."

Now to you and me, the bill appears to be aimed at air pollution, right? But fortunately, justice minister George Chaponda isn't hampered by our blinkered legal interpretations and is certain  the new bill would criminalise flatulence in order to promote "public decency".

By dismissing solicitor general Anthony Kamanga's reasoned response – "How any reasonable or sensible person can construe the provision to criminalising farting in public is beyond me" – Chaponda has made it clear he understands that methane is second only to carbon dioxide as the most damaging greenhouse gas produced by human activity.

Or perhaps he is more bothered by nasty smells than climate change.

"Would you be happy to see people farting anyhow?" he asked on the popular Straight Talk programme on Malawi's Capital Radio, before dispensing more sage advice. "Just go to the toilet when you feel like farting."

To which the Sceptic Tank can only add, "and please close the door".

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