What is wedding hazing and why does China want to ban it?

This nightmare custom is known as naohun – meaning to ‘disturb the wedding’ or ‘wedding hazing.’ Often, as part of naohun, grooms are forced to strip to their underwear or wear women’s clothes

By   |  Published: 7th Jun 2021  11:52 am

Hyderabad: A person’s wedding day is supposed to be one of the most memorable days in life. Enjoying the good food, music and nuptial revelry with close friends and family can make the day unforgettable for the bride and groom. However, there is a particular Chinese tradition that makes the wedding day a day to forget for many.

This nightmare custom is known as naohun – meaning to ‘disturb the wedding’ or ‘wedding hazing.’ Often, as part of naohun, grooms are forced to strip to their underwear or wear women’s clothes. The events turn violent in some cases as firecrackers taped to flesh are set off. The custom also allows strangers to kiss the bride and bridesmaids, leading to an escalation in cases of groping and sexual harassment.

History

Naohun dates back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) and originally refers to nao dongfang (teasing the new couple in the wedding chamber). At that time, naohun rites were not intended to humiliate the bride and groom. They were just games that the wedding guests would play with the couple. The groom’s family would also extend their warm greetings to the bride by having the father-in-law carry the bride on his shoulders.

The ritual was supposed to help the new couple get familiar with each other quickly and cooperate to solve problems, as in ancient China, most couples would have been strangers before their wedding. It was also intended to provide sex education to the couple as teenage marriages were common in those times.

What went wrong?

Recently, many complaints were raised about wedding hazing as most of them ended in violence and causing injuries to the bride and groom. With the emergence of technology, videos of ‘vulgar’ hazing have been circulated all over the world, leading to severe criticisms for the ‘uncivilised practice.’ In one video, the best man was seen severely injured after his head hit the pavement when guests tried to toss him up and down. In another video, the groom himself was injured after firecrackers taped to his body set him on fire.

Sexual assault and groping against brides and bridesmaids have also been reported in recent years, leading feminists and human rights activists across the globe to demand a ban on wedding hazing.

Government action

As accidents and sexual abuse cases increased, some counties in the Shandong province in China have banned wedding hazing. Recently, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs listed 15 areas as zones for a national experiment in reform of wedding traditions to crackdown on ‘vulgar’ naohun practices. Guangzhou and Wuhou district in Chengdu and Qingshan district in Baotou of Inner Mongolia are among the areas included in the three-year scheme.

Local governments are also starting to put curbs on weddings. In Inner Mongolia, a quasi-government body of ‘red and white councils’ run by the Communist Party will now host the weddings. Other counties have also issued directives towards the same.


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