Night weddings in Mombasa – Kenya’s coastal city – have been banned following a rise in gangs of young, knife-wielding criminals who are terrorizing residents, according to the BBC.
Announcing the news on Tuesday, Mombasa County Commissioner Maalim Mohamed declared that all weddings in the county must end by 10 pm. If more time is needed, the organizers must inform the police and pay a fee to hire armed officers for security.
Maalim said the decision was reached after several women were attacked by a gang of knife-wielding thugs and robbed of their valuables while returning home from a night wedding.
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The County Commissioner also noted another incident in which a young man was stabbed and seriously injured by his colleagues while fighting over loot from a robbery.
However, a section of residents in the area have criticized the move, saying it’s a direct violation of their fundamental right to assemble.
“The government cannot ban night weddings, which are cultural in this region. Instead, security agencies must deal with the gangs. We are in the 21st century and such orders are archaic,” Julius Ogogoh, the Executive Director of the Commission for Human Rights and Justice told the Daily Nation.
Night weddings are part of the Swahili culture, which is largely practiced in Mombasa, with some wedding cerebrations lasting for as long as five nights.
Since a majority of Swahili people are Muslims, most of their traditions, including their weddings, are infused with their Islamic faith.
Thus, a Swahili wedding comprises of several stages, the main one being the Nikah ceremony, which is the actual wedding ceremony. After the wedding ceremony, the two families are supposed to have a party called the Walima.
Before the wedding, there is the henna party, where the bride gets to spend some time with her unmarried girlfriends before she becomes a wife. The party involves dancing, singing, and applying of henna to thw bride’s skin.
Men, on the other hand enjoy a night of dancing called kirumbizi on the night before the wedding. The dance involves ancient fighting styles, where two men perform mock fights with sticks as they dance to the tune of traditional musical instruments such as drums and flutes.
After the wedding ceremony, most Swahili families will have an evening reception, where guests are given an opportunity to greet the bride and even take photos with her.