Afghan government plans extravagant wedding ban

Wed Jan 5, 2011 2:21am EST
 
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By Michelle Nichols and Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters Life!) - Extravagant weddings with music and dance were banned by Afghanistan's Taliban as un-Islamic and now the government plans to again rein in lavish marriage celebrations, but this time to stop grooms going broke.

Since U.S.-backed Afghan forces ousted the strict Islamist Taliban in 2001, Afghans have revived the tradition of holding big weddings, costing thousands of dollars, in a country where the average annual income is less than $400.

Afghan weddings are celebrated by hundreds of guests in luxurious wedding halls with the groom and his family expected to foot the bill and agree to every request of the bride and her family.

"Wedding ceremonies among people are like a competition, no one wants to come last, people like to show off their wealth by feeding hundreds of guests in costly wedding halls," said Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb.

"Families are the victim of such a wrong tradition and have to accept these heavy burdens," he said.

Details of the planned ban on expensive weddings were still being worked out, said Justice Ministry spokesman Farid Ahmad Najibi, and he acknowledged it could be difficult to enforce because lavish weddings were so ingrained in Afghan culture.

State institutions were shattered during decades of conflict, with regional, ethnic and tribal differences also making it difficult to enforce laws. Violence is at its worst since the Taliban were ousted, making security a priority even while authorities try to rebuild the aid-reliant economy.

Rafi Kazimi, 24, and his family spent about $10,000 when he married Farima, 20, in October. The couple had 600 guests at their wedding in Kabul. Taxi driver Kazimi and his family are now repaying at least $6,000 in bank loans.   Continued...

 
<p>An Afghan man sweeps outside the City Star Hall in Kabul's Wazir Abad neighbourhood, in this photo taken January 3, 2011. Since U.S.-backed Afghan forces ousted the strict Islamist Taliban in 2001, Afghans have revived the tradition of holding big weddings, costing thousands of dollars, in a country where the average annual income is less than $400. The City Star Hall, which opened three months ago at a cost of $5 million, has four wedding halls and hosts about 70 weddings a month, with an average of 800 to 1,000 guests. Photo taken January 3, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani</p>