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Sweden urged to scrap historic ban on spontaneous dancing once and for all

Sweden urged to scrap historic ban on spontaneous dancing once and for all
When will Swedes be able to feel the beat from the tambourine? Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT
Swedish lawmakers are calling on the government to abolish a controversial rule that bans spontaneous dancing at bars that lack the correct permit – as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is over.

In April 2016, Sweden's parliament voted to ditch a rule stating bars and pubs must have a permit for people to dance in them – a law dating back almost a century.

But the government has yet to implement the law change, with industry groups warning on several occasions that police reports are still being filed over rule breaches.

A bar owner who falls afoul of the rules could risk the withdrawal of other permits, fines or even prison.

By way of a so-called announcement, parliament on Wednesday called on the government to act to change the law. An announcement does not legally force the government to act, however it is customary in Swedish politics for the government to respect the will of parliament, or formally explain its reasons for not doing so.

“The government should urgently put forward a bill to abolish the requirement for a dance permit,” said the parliamentary announcement. “The bill should be able to take effect when the corona pandemic is over.

“Interior Minister Mikael Damberg told parliament in early March this year that the government was working on a proposal to scrap the rule for dance permits, but that the matter had not been prioritised due to several other ongoing law changes aimed at clamping down on organised crime and gang violence.

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Sweden's ban on spontaneous dancing has been hotly debated in recent decades. Between 2011 and 2014 a total of 20 motions to abolish it were put forward by members of various parties in the Swedish parliament.

The ban has been updated over the years, but initially came following decades of debate starting in the 1930s over concerns about the effects that dancing, drinking and decadence would have on the Swedish youth.

If you're thinking how times have changed, remember that even coffee was once illegal in Sweden.

Swedish vocabulary

dance permit – (ett) danstillstånd

announcement – (ett) tillkännagivande

the parliament – riksdagen 

rule – (en) regel

law – (en) lag


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  1. How very Footloose of Sweden…. What about things in this country that were legal? I think I read, on your site no less, that child pornography was legal here in the 1970s?! Isn’t that insane!

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