Pakistan bans Valentines Day!
A Pakistani court has banned public celebrations of Valentine's Day in the capital Islamabad while Indonesian students plan to spurn the event, as the festival of love gets a chilly reception in parts of Asia.
Lonely hearts looking for romance in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore were warned to beware of the growth in online love scams, while grumpy protesters in Japan rallied in recent days for an end to public smooching.
Monday's decision by the Islamabad high court was the latest attempt by authorities in the conservative Muslim country to outlaw a celebration seen by many as a vulgar and indecent Western import.
The annual occasion is increasingly popular among young Pakistanis, many of whom seize the chance to honour romance by giving cards, chocolates and gifts to their sweethearts.
The court issued the order after a petitioner declared love was being used as a "cover" to spread "immorality, nudity and indecency... which is against our rich traditions and values".
The ruling, seen by AFP and greeted with approval by Islamist parties, also called for the electronic and print media to stop promoting Valentine's Day.
Meanwhile in Muslim-majority Indonesia, a group of school students in the city of Surabaya denounced the romantic day as a Western celebration that encourages casual sex and staged a protest.
"Say no to Valentine!" chanted the students, who were aged between 13 and 15 and included many girls wearing headscarves.
"This protest was organised as we have seen on television that Valentine's Day tends to be associated with free sex," said Pandu Satria, organiser of the demonstration. "That makes us afraid."
Several cities across the country also banned people from celebrating.
In Malaysia, where Islam is also the dominant religion, a group called The National Muslim Youth Association urged females to avoid using emoticons and an excessive amount of fragrance in a pre-Valentine's Day message.
- 'Smooching is terrorism!' -
Days earlier in Japan, a group of marxist protesters known as "Kakuhido", or the Revolutionary Alliance of Men that Women find Unattractive, also called for an end to public displays of love, claiming it hurts their feelings.
"Our aim is to crush this love capitalism," the group's public relations chief Takayuki Akimoto told AFP.
"People like us who don't seek value in love are being oppressed by society," he added. "It's a conspiracy by people who think unattractive guys are inferior, or losers -- like cuddling in public, it makes us feel bad. It's unforgivable."
Authorities in Malaysia, Australia and Singapore also warned of a growth in online scams cheating lonely people out of their savings.
Romance scams cost Australians more money than any other form of cheating, with those aged over 45 more likely to be stung, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said.
“Romance scammers are getting increasingly manipulative so if you are going online this Valentine’s Day to look for love, it’s absolutely vital that you’re able to recognise the warning signs," ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.