South Asia

Maldives warns of 'tough' new rules to govern weddings

Tourist relaxes on Kurumathi Island, part of the Maldives chain
Image caption The scandal has threatened to damage the Maldives' tourism-dependent economy

The Maldives has imposed "stringent" new rules on the conduct of marriage ceremonies after a video showing a couple being unknowingly abused and taunted became an internet hit.

The new rules say ceremonies must be fully explained to tourists and conducted in a language chosen by them.

Participants must not "engage in any disrespectful activity".

Two arrests have been made over the scandal, which hit the reputation of the tourism-dependent country.

President Mohamed Nasheed has personally apologised to the couple - whose identities are unknown - and now his office has released the new rules governing "symbolic" marriage ceremonies.

'Peace of mind'

The ceremonies must be supervised by a senior manager from the resort where the ceremony is taking place, said the president's office in a news release.

If conducted in a language the couple do not understand, a translation must be provided.

Resorts which break the rules face a one-million-rufiyaa ($78,000; £49,000) fine.

The new regulations will ensure "tourists who wish to conduct a symbolic wedding in the Maldives should have peace of mind that their ceremonies are conducted to the highest professional standards", said presidential Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair.

The amateur film on YouTube shows a celebrant explaining the ceremony in English before everyone stands and holds their hands up to pray.


The celebrant uses the intoning style of prayer to unleash a torrent of abuse in the Dhivehi tongue on the unwitting couple, who smile shyly.

"Your marriage is not a valid one," he says. "You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage. One of you is an infidel.

"The other, too, is an infidel - and we have reason to believe - an atheist, who does not even believe in an infidel religion.

"You fornicate and make a lot of children. You drink and you eat pork."

The celebrant also makes references to bestiality, sexual diseases and "frequent fornication by homosexuals".

The identity of the couple remains unknown, with their nationality variously reported as French or Swiss.

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