The upper house of parliament in Tajikistan this week adopted legislation intensifying restrictions on how people can celebrate holidays and special events.
A law initially imposing prohibitions on lavish parties was adopted a decade ago, but senators decided on August 23 that the time had come to tighten the screws. It remains unclear, however, what formal mechanisms are to be put in place to ensure the rules are upheld.
Celebrations to mark circumcisions must now be held within 20 day of the child’s birth and can only involve the immediate family. Weddings have long been restricted to three hours, but it will now no longer be permitted to organize pre- and post-wedding parties.
Asia-Plus news website noted that during discussions on the legislation there was also talk about adopting other changes to family law that would outline rules on dowries. The discussion of dowries and the division of wealth is traditionally a highly intimate and personal matter decided within the family. Typically, the husband-to-be is expected to provide the house while the wife should furnish it.
One member of parliament cited by Asia-Plus said the overhaul to the rules could reduce the need for so many to migrate since large numbers of Tajiks go to work abroad specifically to fund their weddings.
Returning to the changes to the law, the bereaved are no longer permitted to invite fellow mourners to eat after the funeral or to slay an animal for the occasion. Breaking this law can lead to dismissal for anybody working in state bodies and a $4,000 fine for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders face a $5,700 fine.
The law also requires citizens and organizations to show respect for “national culture,” by which it means the Tajik language and traditional clothing, among other things.
A representative for the Committee for the Affairs of Women and Families has told EurasiaNet.org that specific guidelines are being drawn up to determine what will constitute acceptable national clothing.
Religious bodies, meanwhile, have been tasked to educate the population about which holidays are and are not religious in nature — and, presumably, which should actually be observed and celebrated with appropriate festivities.
Not all punitively expensive feasting is off the cards, however.
For the first time last year, on November 16, for example, Tajikistan marked President’s Day — a holiday dedicated entirely to elaborate paeans to the uncontested head of state, Emomali Rahmon. Other events marked in lavish style are National Flag Day and Nowruz, which is celebrated over five days in Tajikistan.
Likewise, any time Rahmon visits any city or provincial location, no expense is spared in marshaling the locality’s entire resources to marking the occasion. Indeed, failure to properly celebrate such visits have on occasion ended with the firing of local officials.
In one recent instance, on August 15, a female musical ensemble in the Hurasan district in southern Tajikistan greeted Rahmon at the entrance to a stadium with the collective banging of doiras — a kind of large tambourine. Unfortunately, the performance was deemed below-par as some players drifted off the rhythm. Rahmon’s furry eyebrows visibly knitted with irritation, spelling trouble for the head of the local women’s affairs committee, who organized the festivities.
Immediately after the performance, the official was fired, although she was a week later quietly reinstated.