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If you don’t treat national flags with respect, you could find yourself facing a public apology, fines, or even jail time. Here’s how not to fall for flags.

The appearance of the Aboriginal flag at the Olympics continues to cause a stir, two decades after Cathy Freeman wrapped herself in it after her sprint for the 400-meter gold medal in Sydney.

Recently, the Matildas football team were the last to make headlines when they took photos of a team holding the Aboriginal flag before a game at the Tokyo Olympics.

This should remind us that flags are powerful symbols of national pride and politics, the misuse of which can easily get travelers into trouble or even imprison them.

Returning to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, Dawn Fraser was arrested for stealing (or keeping as a souvenir) an Olympic flag outside the Imperial Palace, but was later released without charge.

And in 2016, Australians vacationing at the Malaysian Grand Prix gained instant notoriety as the Budgie Nine when they stripped down to wear swimsuits emblazoned with the Malaysian flag. They were charged with indecent assault and detained for three days.

The use of the flag on clothing, table linens, cushions and shoes is illegal in many Asian countries. In Thailand, even using the three colors of the flag on shoes or flip flops can result in a fine or up to one year in prison.

Thailand has strict rules for playing with the national flag. In 2017, in the tourist town of Krabi, CCTV footage captured two drunk Italian tourists pulling five Thai flags from storefronts. The two men were found at a nearby guesthouse and arrested.

Both had to apologize profusely and were fortunate enough to escape prison. The Thai Flag Act provides for between six months and two years imprisonment for such offenses.

The offending tourists claimed that the flags were of little importance to Italians, but this is in fact false. You can be jailed for two years in Italy for destroying a national flag, and even “verbal desecration” can result in a huge fine of 10,000 euros ($ 16,000).

While flag desecration laws are often associated with repressive regimes keen to quell protests, you better beware no matter where you travel. Failure to respect the flag can put you in jail for one year in Spain, two in Greece and five in Germany, where the law applies to any national flag.

When in 2010, a man was photographed wiping his buttocks with a French flag, laws were passed in France imposing fines of 1,500 euros ($ 2,400) or 7,500 euros (12,000 $) if your mischief takes place at a public event.

One of the law’s first scalps was a man so enraged by bad customer service in a government office that he tore off the flag and snapped the pole in half.

In Montenegro, you can be fined for flying foreign flags without a permit, which should be considered before draping the Australian flag from your hotel balcony on ANZAC day, unless you want to shell out $ 300 euros ($ 480).

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, it is illegal to display the national flag on the facade of a building occupied by foreigners, in any “place of vice” or wherever “frivolity prevails”, such as nightclubs and clubs. bars.

In India, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was reprimanded by the courts in 2007 for insulting national pride by cutting an iced cake with the national flag. He was released after apologizing. More recently, local courts have decided to ban flags on face masks for fear their disposal will be “improper”.

Disrespect can have broad interpretations. In 2019, a French basketball player from the Chinese National Basketball League was fined 10,000 yuan ($ 2,086) for not looking at the flag during the national anthem.

McDonald’s, Coca Cola and a German brothel found themselves in hot water because of the use of the Saudi flag. FIFA too, who wanted to use it on soccer balls. The Saudi flag incorporates religious text, making its misuse both disrespectful and blasphemous.

Mexicans are also picky about their flag. In 2008, pop princess Paulina Rubio was fined when fashion photos of her draped only in a Mexican flag appeared in Spanish magazine Cosmopolitan. And in 2014, Miley Cyrus narrowly escaped detention when one of her dancers slapped her with a Mexican flag as she twerked at a concert in Monterrey.

Only a few countries do not have laws prohibiting playing with flags, including the US, UK, Canada, and Denmark – although in Denmark it is illegal to destroy any other nation’s flag. , as well as those of the EU and the UN.

Desecration of flags is permitted in Australia, but it does not take precedence over other laws. You could be charged with destroying property or breaking public safety if your actions result in a fire hazard or “worry, fear and anger.”

No matter where you go, think twice before attacking a nation’s pride symbol. Even if the law allows you, you might find yourself facing angry locals, which is not the idea for anyone to have a good vacation.

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