In response to this article from The Economist, I was wondering if there are any other countries that prohibit this type of speech? Not libel, since that relates directly to issues of the "right to a good name," nor any kinds of blasphemy or profanity laws. Rather, what I'm looking for are laws that are there to protect me from someone harming me, personally, the same way they would using violence, only with words instead, such as catcalling, cursing, or even verbal bullying.

  • In my country, such catacalls are used to insult someone. It is considered as treating him like a mentally impaired dumb. Doing this here is definitely considered as harassment.
    – user4
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:09
  • Right, I'm wondering if it might be illegal anywhere
    – Roy
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:12
  • Might be unrealated, but most eu countries have laws against racial/hate speech.
    – user4
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:14
  • 2
    In the U.S, with the exception of specific actions that constitute harassment, that kind of speech is protected under the first amendment, and no law can be made that prohibits or regulates such speech.
    – Ephraim
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 21:32
  • 1
    @Roy: Extreme freedom? Is there such a thing? Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 22:33

4 Answers 4


The bottom line is: yes, there are many statutes, in many countries, criminalizing speech based on the fact that the hearer finds them offensive. These may include:

  • Laws against extremist political sppech (i.e., anti-Nazi laws)
  • Laws against hate speech or racial or sexually discriminatory speech
  • Laws against criticizing or hurting the feelings of specific persons (i.e., lese-majeste)

The anti-catcall laws seem to be closest, in purpose and effect, to laws outlawing racial or religious hate speech, which are fairly common in European countries. Catcalling is, essentially, hate speech directed against women, and this seems very similar to other hate speech laws.

  • I actually feel that what I'm looking for is more along the lines of the third category. That's because laws against hate speech or extremist political speech tend to prohibit that speech even without a specific victim of the speech. They're trying to prevent the wider societal effects of the speech. Anti catcall laws would be different. They're not prohibiting you saying something in public, vaguely, but addressing a particular offensive remark at a specific person. Do you have any examples/references of the third category?
    – Roy
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 15:37
  • The only difference between "hate speech" and catcalling is that the injury is suffered by a group, rather than an individual. Saying "All poles are liars" is not "vague;" it insults a specific group of people. It's a large group rather than a group of one, but there is still a concrete harm to a concrete group.
    – chapka
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 15:43
  • You can say that that's "the only difference", but I still think it's a significant one. After all, I can hardly sue you for making racist comments on the grounds that it insulted me personally as a member of the group you insulted... It's why the question was explicitly directed at "personally harmful" speech. Additionally, "all poles" isn't a defined group of people. What if I consider myself polish, and you don't? and so on, issues that would only arise when discussing a group, not when discussing a specific victim (such as a woman who was catcalled).
    – Roy
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 15:47


According to Russian KoAP 20.1 "Small Hooliganism":

  1. Мелкое хулиганство, то есть нарушение общественного порядка, выражающее явное неуважение к обществу, сопровождающееся нецензурной бранью в общественных местах, оскорбительным приставанием к гражданам, а равно уничтожением или повреждением чужого имущества, -

    влечет наложение административного штрафа в размере от пятисот до одной тысячи рублей или административный арест на срок до пятнадцати суток.

A disorderly conduct, in other words, violating the public order, by showing profound disrespect towards the society, together with swearing in public place, offensive bothering of citizens, as well as destruction or damage of another's property, --

is punishable by an administrative fine in the amount of 500 to 1000 roubles, or an administrative arrest of up to 15 days.



In English law, Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 makes it illegal, among other things, to use abusive speech in the hearing of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress by it.

You may also want to look at Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which describes how a state that has signed that convention may restrict people's speech - any such restrictions must be 'prescribed by law', i.e. agents of the state shouldn't make them as the go along, and they must be 'necessary' for one of a set list of legitimate purposes. Of course there is much debate in courts about what is 'necessary'.


In Germany, you can be taken to court for insulting a person. "Insult" means saying derogatory things to them in front of witnesses. "In front of witnesses" is essential, if I record on video that you insult me, with no other person present, I have all the evidence but it isn't legally an insult.

Harassment is not necessary. It is not necessary that the insult is believable (unlike libel where "no person would actually believe this" could be an excuse).

The insulted person can sue you. If you insult an official state employee doing his duty (like a police officer, inland revenue employee, etc.) the state can and will sue you. It's strange for Germans coming to the UK and watching a TV show where an arrested criminal swears at a police officer – don't try that in Germany.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .