Colombo: The Maldives on Thursday moved to limit dancing in public between men and women, an official and a report said, amid signs of the growing influence of the nation's hardline religious party.
The Islamic affairs ministry sent a circular "to all government institutions banning the holding of any mixed-gender dance events", the private Minivan newspaper said, quoting guidelines issued today.
The ministry also ordered a ban on events where adolescent girls were required to dance, the report said, adding that the directives were intended for both state bodies and individual citizens.
It was not immediately clear if the move was legally enforceable under existing regulations, and Minivan said there were exemptions.
'Events such as children's activities, performances exhibiting military skills, parades, playing the national anthem, boy scouts and girl guides performances... were acceptable forms of entertainment," it said.
There was no immediate comment from the president's office or the foreign ministry, but Youth Affairs Minister Mohamed Shareef said the "guidelines" were only targeting "indecent" behaviour.
"There is a public debate on music and dance and what is permissible according to religion and culture," Shareef said when contacted by telephone.
"What the guidelines are saying is that if people are dancing in an indecent manner, it should not be allowed."
The move came the same week that the religious Adhaalath Party, part of the government, announced that "music and songs" were harming young people in the nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.
"The worst of all is our youth's addiction to music and songs, something that is 'haram' (forbidden)," the party said in messages on its Twitter account which also condemned homosexuals.
"Cigarettes, music and Internet are gateways to higher addictions like alcohol, pornography and hard drugs. Attack root cause and save our kids."
The Maldives is an Islamic republic known for its liberal lifestyle.
However, authorities have been concerned about rising extremism in recent years and have been resisting calls from extremists to shut down luxury tourist resorts which serve alcohol and pork.