Afghan laws banning lavish weddings proving hard to enact

Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:41am EDT
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By Rob Taylor

KABUL (Reuters) - A law curbing the spiraling costs of lavish Afghan weddings is proving difficult to enact, with many lawmakers opposed to legislation meant to contain crippling marriage bills in one of the world's poorest countries, a top government adviser said.

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

But after complaints from the families of grooms, who are expected to foot the bill and agree to every request of the bride and her family, the government has been working on new laws capping the number of guests at around 300 people.

"There was an idea in the Ministry of Justice to regularize that, to bring some kind of discipline, so that the family of the bridegroom does not suffer that much," said the ministry's top adviser Mohmmad Qasim Hashimzai.

"But then some people expressed opinions - especially some experts - that it was a private issue, that we should not intrude in the private business," he said.

Hundreds of guests attend Afghan weddings held in luxurious halls or in hotels, with clothing, food and music driving up costs with brides inviting the entire community to celebrations.

The government's bid to regulate the size of celebrations follows a ban last year on expensive weddings and dowries introduced by district governments in some areas to encourage young people to marry instead of postponing their nuptials due to spiraling costs.

The national government has since sought to introduce similar laws curbing expensive weddings across the country.   Continued...