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Caucasus wedding sets tongues wagging, sparks polygyny debate among pundits

May 20, 2015, 20:24 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Smirnov

MOSCOW, May 20. /TASS/. The possibility of legalizing polygyny in Russia unexpectedly proved one of the most-discussed themes over the past few days. "It’s inevitable," say some, adding that men are fewer than women. "It’s barbarity," their opponents retort.

Two very routine events have brought the issue into the limelight. On May 16 Chechnya saw a wedding of a local police office chief (according to different reports 47 to 57 years of age) and a 17-year-old bride. According to some media the police officer already has a wife, and the bride had reportedly agreed to marry him under pressure. Chechnya’s head Ramzan Kadyrov played a very personal role in the affair, although in 2012 he himself outlawed all marriages with persons under age. Kadyrov was present at the ceremony himself to have described it afterwards as a "wedding of the age."

The chief of Kadyrov’s staff, Magomed Daudov, told the on-line daily Gazeta.ru in an interview: "If a man can support another wife, why not? That’s widely spread, so it might be a good idea to control it somehow." He added, though, it was essential the Sharia law should be strictly observed.

Daudov’s statement came after a member of the State Duma’s committee for family, women’s and children’s affairs, Olga Alimova, urged criminal punishment for polygyny.

Russian human rights commissioner Ella Pamfilova on Tuesday declared the intention to look into the wedding of a girl under age and a Chechen police officer personally.

"I have made a number of queries concerning the wedding and what is happening now," Pamfilova said on the Ekho Moskvy radio station. In particular, Pamfilova is to check rumors about the Chechen police officer’s previous marriage, which, according to media reports has not been dissolved yet, as well as the suspicion the girl under age was forced to wed.

Pamfilova said that polygyny is not envisaged by any legal act, and the same applies to all constituent territories of Russia. She recalled that Russia was a civilized country and its leadership would never agree to make polygyny legal.

"I can only state the fact that polygyny is not allowed. This is the reason why in this particular case we do not participate in the discussion," Russian presidential press-secretary Dmitry Peskov has said.

The head of the International Islamic Mission, Mufti Shafig Pshikhachev, expressed the certainty that Russia will have to legalize polygyny sooner or later. "Whether it will be allowed as a common law marriage or an officially registered one, polygyny is unavoidable. I have been in Russia for the past 28 years. That’s the reality that lies in store for us," the NEWSru.com portal quotes Pshikhachev as saying.

Russia of late has seen noticeable growth in the number of multiple marriages, the first deputy chief of the Russian Muslim board, Damir-khazrat Mukhetdinov, has told the Portal lenta.ru.

"Lately, plural marriages were getting frequent in Muslim societies," Mukhetdinov said, adding that he was referring to not just some Caucasus regions, but European areas of Russia country, too. Such weddings are made on the basis of religious laws, and not secular ones, he added.

Russia’s leading psychotherapist, Aleksandr Poleyev, says he sees no benefits of polygyny at all.

"True, it does exist in regions with large Muslim communities, but for Russia’s Slav population it is unacceptable, although it is present here in some latent forms: many Russian men of means have mistresses whom they support," Poleyev told TASS. "The reason is there are far fewer men than women."

"In Russia, a secular state, the authorities must unequivocally express their attitude to this custom, looking atavistic to me," he said.

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