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Image: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Valentine's Day and the billions in consumer spending it generates are a staple of Western culture, but elsewhere in the world, Feb. 14 has become a day synonymous with government intimidation, vigilante violence and — in a hopeful twist — rebellion in the name of love.

In Pakistan, where Valentine's celebrations have been banned since 2017, police have taken to searching cars for balloons, chocolates and other "contraband," per the NYTimes. Some florists, risking criminality in the eyes of the Islamabad High Court, hide their red roses in the back of the shop, reserved only for their most daring customers.

The reason? Pakistan's government has ruled that celebration of the holiday is "against the teachings of Islam," and that it uses the cover of spreading love to promote "immorality, nudity and indecency," per the U.K.'s Metro.

Meanwhile, other countries don't have a codified Valentine's ban, but intimidation tactics by government agencies and vigilante groups help enforce the taboo:

  • In many parts of India, Valentine's Day is marked by vandalism, harassment and even violence in the name of moral policing, according to The Wire. India is not a Muslim-majority nation, but vigilantes claim they are protecting the country's ancient culture from western influence.
  • The Russian region of Belgorod, which introduced a Valentine's Day ban in 2010, has also argued in favor of preserving the nation's rich, cultural traditions.
  • In Iran, the holiday itself isn't banned, but much of the activity surrounding it — manufacturing heart-printed cards and red boxes, for example — is. Some nationalists have suggested replacing Valentine's Day with Mehregān, a Persian holiday that celebrates friendship, affection or love.
  • In Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, radicals employ intimidation tactics like raiding mini-marts to confiscate what they call "unregulated" contraceptives.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes mix-and-match for COVID booster shots

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Wednesday gave its approval for Americans to get booster shots that are different from the COVID vaccine they initially received.

Why it matters: The recommendation from the FDA, which also authorized booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday, paves the way for an expansion of booster shots.

GOP congressman forfeits committee seats after indictment

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) on Wednesday stepped down from his committee assignments after being indicted for lying to federal investigators amid a probe into illegal campaign donations.

What they're saying: In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Fortenberry said he is "grateful for the outpouring of support from my friends and colleagues as we work against the injustice confronting me."

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.