Bonn Can I cut off my boss' tie on Women's Carnival (Weiberfastnacht)? Or even give him a kiss? Even if the whole city is kinda upside down, certain rules have to be observed even at carnival. Here’s a quick overview.
On Thursday of next week, the traditional street carnival will start again on Weiberfastnacht. In Bonn and the whole Rhineland there is a state of emergency: The otherwise reserved saleswoman suddenly sits at the cash register with a cardboard nose, and the people around you busily hand out little caps. But even the fifth season is not a law-free zone.
Forbidden costumes and accessories
A good costume belongs to carnival like a key to the castle. Above all, it should be authentic, true to style and realistic. Soon we see many policemen, cowboys, knights and co. on the streets again, but if you are not careful when choosing the right accessories, you can quickly come into conflict with the law. Weapons that look deceptively similar to an original, or even a firearm that has been rendered unusable, are so-called "semblance weapons" and are subject to a fine. There are clear rules for toy weapons: The more unrealistic a weapon replica is, the less complicated it is to carry. It is forbidden to wear police costumes, if it is an original service uniform is used. A doctor's coat, however, can be worn without hesitation. An overview of which costumes are prohibited is provided by the portal bussgeldkatalog.org of the Association for Citizen-Oriented Transport Policy.
Some costumes are too "hot", racist and discriminatory
Whether as a sexy stewardess or a pretty pilot - German criminal law sets clear limits even for "hot costumes": The disguise must not cause public nuisance. So anyone who takes to the streets in a permissive or exhibitionist manner must expect legal consequences or even a report. Real carnivalists should refrain from using stereotypical and stigmatising disguises. Wearing Nazi emblems is also punishable in carnival. Likewise, the use of other emblems of unconstitutional organisations is a violation of the law and can be punished with a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine.
Ban on face coverings
In principle, the ban on masking in Germany "prohibits the carrying of objects at public gatherings in the open air, lifts or other public events in the open air or on the way there which are suitable and, under the circumstances, intended to prevent the establishment of identity". Against this background, carnival is a special case, since §17a of the Assembly Act regulates exceptions. Masks or face-covering helmets are therefore permitted on carnival days. However, they should not be worn when driving as the driver must not be impaired in sight or hearing.
If an accident occurs, a masked driver can quickly get into trouble with the insurance company or be partially blamed. Consequently, carnivalists should wear masks and eye patches only during the actual celebrations.
Alcohol in carnival - but not at the wheel
Those who like to hit the booze during carnival should leave their car behind. Of course, there is no relaxation of the permitted alcohol level even on the craziest days. Thus, as always, the following applies: Anyone who loses control with 0.3 per mil at the wheel is liable to prosecution under §316 of the penal code. From 0.5 per mil is an administrative offence, which is punishable by a fine of 500 euros, two points in the driving aptitude register and a one month driving ban. A driver is absolutely unfit to drive if his blood alcohol level exceeds 1.1 per mille: in this case he is liable to a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine. Since alcohol is often involved in carnival celebrations, it is advisable to plan your way home before the great party.
Women's carnival customs: Off with the tie?
What is considered a carnival custom can nevertheless not only be embarrassing, but also quickly become expensive: Anyone who cuts off the tie of strangers at a carnival risks being sued for damages. So it is better to ask politely once again before a woman pulls out the scissors. Otherwise the short piece may have a long civil law repercussion.
The little kiss on the cheek - a little bean - is one of the most popular rituals at carnival. And who doesn't want to be used? The lawyers of the German Lawyers' Association (DAV) advise you to stay away from carnival, because the little beanie is a traditional custom. Nevertheless, the following also applies to carnival: sexual harassment begins where the sexual self-determination of a person is encroached upon - and that can be a simple touch. Unauthorised touching of a person is a criminal offence.
Peeing „in the wild“ remains prohibited
The drinks flow in streams and all toilets are overcrowded. This picture invites many a joker to relieve himself in the next bush. But "urinating in public" is a nuisance to the general public according to the law on administrative offences (OWiG).
Even worse is the direct relief on the spot. Anyone who completely unabashedly does not shy away from the gaze of others, and even shows his natural equipment while doing so, must expect to be charged with "causing a public nuisance" according to § 183a StGB, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or a fine.
If some candy hits one in the eye
If a flying candy lands on a head instead of in a bag, the injured person has little chance of compensation for pain and suffering or damages. In one specific case, a hard-working candy collector was hit by a sweet on the incisor and even lost it. However, he was not entitled to compensation or damages for pain and suffering. According to the court's reasoning, candy „bullets“ were part of the carnival procession and the spectators had to prepare themselves accordingly.
(Original text: Scarlet Schmitz; Translation: Mareike Graepel)