The differences in laws among countries are vast and can even vary significantly even within a single nation. These laws do not always reflect the political or social leanings of their respective populations, and certain laws may go unenforced despite being on the books.
A recent study, utilizing a conservative framework based on American perspectives, sought to measure the relative conservatism of countries’ laws by analyzing 10 distinct legal areas. The study found that Saudi Arabia possesses the world’s most conservative laws while the Netherlands boasts the most liberal. The areas studied include abortion, alcohol, narcotics, LGBTQ rights, prostitution, pornography, gambling, guns, criminal sentencing, and corporal punishment.
Abortion – 10% – 12 pts
Some Central American countries do not allow abortion even if the mother’s life is at risk.
Other countries allow abortion in all circumstances.
0 points – Legal on request
2 points – Allowed due to risk of the mother’s life, to her health, rape, fetal impairment, or socioeconomic factors
8 points – Allowed due to risk of the mother’s life, to her health, rape, fetal impairment
9 points – Allowed due to risk of the mother’s life, to her health, and either rape or fetal impairment
10 points – Allowed due to risk of the mother’s life and to her health
11 points – Allowed due to risk of the mother’s life
12 points – Illegal under any circumstances
Alcohol – 10% – 12 pts
In many Muslim countries, alcohol is completed banned.
However, many countries in Africa do not even have a minimum age to purchase alcohol.
0 points – Age limit on drinking alcohol below 18 years old
2 points – Age limit on drinking alcohol is 18 years old
4 points – Age limit on drinking alcohol is above 18 years old
8 points – Alcohol allowed only for non-Muslims
12 points – Alcohol is completely forbidden
Narcotics – 10% – 12 pts
Possession of illicit drugs could lead to a death sentence in a few countries.
However, there are a few countries that have decriminalized their possession.
0 points – Legal
2 points – Decriminalized
4 points – Only for medical purposes
6 points – Criminalized
(6 points each for both marijuana and cocaine laws)
LGBTQ Rights – 10% – 12 pts
Homosexual relationships are criminalized in many predominately Muslim countries.
In contrast, more and more Western countries are legalizing same sex marriage.
0 points – Same sex marriage allowed
3 points – Civil unions for same sex partners allowed
6 points – Same sex marriage not allowed, same sex relationships allowed
9 points – Same sex relationships criminalized but not enforced
12 points – Same sex relationships criminalized
Prostitution – 10% – 12 pts
Prostitution is completely legal and regulated in several European and Latin American countries.
Still, many countries do not allow it in any form.
0 points – Legal or decriminalized
4 points – Only unorganized prostitution allowed
8 points – Prostitution only criminalized for buyers, sellers not criminalized
12 points – Illegal
Pornography – 10% – 12 pts
It is illegal even to possess pornography in a few countries.
On the other hand, many countries allow the sale of pornography.
0 points – Legal to sell
3 points – Legal to sell in certain circumstances
6 points – Illegal to sell
9 points – Some forms of pornography legal to possess
12 points – Possession of pornography is illegal
Gambling – 10% – 12 pts
Gambling is completely banned, both in land-based and online form in several countries.
However, many allow it to go on anywhere in their country.
0 points – Allowed
3 points – Limited to certain circumstances or subject to fines
6 points – Illegal
(6 points each for both land-based casinos and online games)
Source: Key to Casinos
Guns – 10% – 12 pts
In Yemen and the United States, a permit is not even required to buy a gun.
Civilians are not allowed to buy guns, especially in East Asia.
0 points – 0-10 gun rights score
1.5 points – 10-20 gun rights score
3 points – 20-30 gun rights score
4.5 points – 30-40 gun rights score
6 points – 40-50 gun rights score
7.5 points – 50-60 gun rights score
9 points – 60-70 gun rights score
10.5 points – 70-80 gun rights score
12 points – 80-90 gun rights score
Source: Freedom Index
Criminal Sentencing – 10% – 12 pts
For even non-violent crimes, several countries are still using the death penalty.
On the other end of the spectrum, many Latin American countries do not even allow life in prison sentences.
0 points – Death penalty is illegal
4 points – Death penalty is rarely-practiced due to moratorium or laws
8 points – Death penalty is practiced
10 points – Death penalty is even used for non-violent offenses
(An addition 2 points if sentences of Life Imprisonment are legal)
Corporal Punishment – 10% – 12 pts
There are a few countries where the authorities can inflict bodily harm on people as a punishment.
This practice is strictly forbidden for anyone to do for anyway in other countries.
0 points – Not allowed under any circumstances
3 points – Not allowed in schools, but allowed at home
6 points – Allowed in schools and at home, but prohibited in some settings
9 points – Allowed
(An addition 3 points if Judicial Corporal punishment is practiced)
10 Countries with the Most Conservative Laws
Due to their closely held religious beliefs, the ten countries with the most conservative laws are all predominately Muslim. Most are located in the Middle East.
10 Countries with the Least Conservative Laws
Most of the countries with the least conservative laws are in Europe or were settled by immigrants from Europe. The ten countries with the least conservative laws are mostly Christian, but tend to have many atheists as well.