7 January 2011 Last updated at 13:21 ET
SOMALIA – FAILED STATE
- Mogadishu mayor: ‘I may be killed’
- Women: Marry or be beheaded
- City of corpses
- EU trains new government troops
Men and women have been banned from shaking hands in a district of Somalia controlled by the Islamist group al-Shabab.
Under the ban imposed in the southern town of Jowhar, men and women who are not related are also barred from walking together or chatting in public.
It is the first time such social restrictions have been introduced.
The al-Shabab administration said those who disobeyed the new rules would be punished according to Sharia law.
The BBC’s Mohamed Moalimuu in Mogadishu says the penalty would probably be a public flogging.
The militant group has already banned music in areas that it controls, which include most of central and southern Somalia.
Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991.
The UN-backed government only controls parts of Mogadishu and a few other areas.