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Poverty, Gender Inequality Force Girls Into Marriage

The public in Russia and beyond has expressed shock at the recent marriage of a Chechen girl to a man who is 30 years older. The girl is 17 years old. The man is a 47-year-old police chief. And he is already married to another woman.

The girl reportedly was forced to marry. Her parents apparently gave their permission after receiving threats.

Russian law bans forced and underage marriages. It also prevents individuals from being married to more than one person at the same time.

But in Russia's Caucasus area, tribal laws and traditions carry more weight than state law. And Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov supported the marriage between police chief Nazhud Guchigov and the teenager.

The Chechen leader Kadyrov attended the wedding. One of his assistants was at the bride's side for most of the ceremony. Police also warned a Russian reporter who investigated the marriage plans to stay away.

Most countries have laws that ban child marriage. But still, one in every three girls in developing countries is married before the age of 18. One in nine is married under age 15. Activists, experts and others discussed the problem at a recent conference in Morocco. Girls Not Brides organized the meeting. Girls Not Brides is an alliance of international organizations working to end child marriage.

Lakshmi Sundaram leads Girls Not Brides. She says activists must speed efforts against child marriage. If not, she says, more than 1.2 billion girls will be married before the year 2050.

The problem is the worst in Bangladesh, India and Niger. In those countries, three in every four girls get married before age 18. Experts place most of the blame on poverty and gender inequality. Parents usually organize the marriages.

Sidikou Moussa is a child advocate from Nigeria. He says intervention must begin at the family level. Then, he says, activists must deal with the issue at the community level. He says communities need to see child marriage as a danger.

A 14-year girl from India was also at the conference. Duli Hembram was able to avoid the marriage her parents organized by appealing to the leader of her school.

"Today was to be my wedding day. I am not getting married. I want to study."

Experts say governments in the affected countries need to do more to keep girls in the educational system. They say officials also must protect girls from abuse and violence.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Zlatica Hoke reported on this story from Washington. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

briden. a woman who has just married or is about to be married

gendern. the state of being male or female

advocaten. a person who argues for or supports a cause or policy

abuse – n. harmful treatment of a person or animal

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