04/17/2008, 00.00
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Draft bill to ban make-up, dancing and music

A parliamentary committee approves bill that would reintroduce Taliban-style prohibitions and punishments for everything un-Islamic. The sexes would be segregated at celebrations and public gatherings; deviant TV programmes would be off the air; popular animal fights would be banned.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – Make-up, dancing, loud music, jeans and Indian soap operas might be soon a thing of the past in Afghanistan if a draft bill prepared by parliament’s Commission for Anti-Social Behaviour and Counter-Narcotics. The change, which would represent a return to Taliban-styled repression, must be approved by both houses of parliament and signed into law by President Hamid Karzai. But just the possibility that it might be adopted has human rights supporters and those who believe that Afghanistan can move towards democracy worried.

According to excerpts of the bill published by international news agencies, women and girls will no longer be allowed to wear make-up and must be properly dressed or wear the hijab. Women will also not be allowed to dance in public. Men will not be allowed to sport long hair, wear bracelets, necklaces, rings and other gimmicks like “a girl’s”.

Other restrictions will affect gatherings. At weddings men and women must be separated and music must not be loud.

Animal fights, which are popular in the country, will also be outlawed. Transgressors will be liable for fines ranging from US$ 10 to 100.

Radio and TV stations will not be allowed to broadcast “un-Islamic” shows harmful to youth. Included, but not specifically mentioned in the draft bill, are very popular Indian soap operas, guilty in their detractors’ eyes of changing “the behaviour of our women and children.”

Controversy over soap operas was sparked when some religious extremists began inciting the faithful during Friday prayers to attack TV stations that dared show this type of programmes.

TV executives pledged however not to bow to the threats, stating that any ban would violate the existing media law.

Between 1996 and 2001 the Talibans imposed harsh laws. They included the obligation for women to wear the burqa and leave home only if accompanied by a male relative.

The Taliban regime also banned music, shut down schools and universities, and turned executions and punishments like amputations into a spectator sport.

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