Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Forced Early Marriages in North Caucasus have Disastrous Consequences, First Large-Scale Study of Problem Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – Forced and especially early forced marriages in the North Caucasus has long been known to be a serious problem, but now it has been documented in the first-ever large-scale study – and the consequences of this problem are even more serious and widespread than many had suspected.

            A group of lawyers, doctors, and human rights activists have interviewed victims of this practice across the North Caucasus and produced a report, We were Forcibly Married: Problems of Early and Forced Marriages in Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya (in Russian;; discussed at

            The problem is vastly underreported, the authors of the AD REM report say, because many of these early and forced marriages are never officially recorded by state agencies but only by religious authorities who do not share the information with the state. There are certainly thousands more than the state acknowledges.

            A major cause of such marriages is the gender discrimination widely practiced in the North Caucasus. In patriarchal societies there, women are viewed as having fewer rights and are expected to focus on the home and family rather than pursue any independent lives for themselves.

            A second reason for such marriages is poverty. Women are forced into marriages so that their parents can escape the burdens of paying for them, and that pattern is reinforced by the widespread belief that the honor of families must be maintained in cases where incest or premarital sexual activity is suspected or actually present.

            Devotion to religion and ethnicity also plays a role as does the extremely weak knowledge of and respect for law and the constitution. And the practice keeps repeating itself because early marriages keep women from gaining educations and thus having the skills needed to pursue an independent life.

            Such marriages harm the health of the women involved, the study says; and they also result more frequently than others in stillborn or malformed children.


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