A member of Russia’s presidential human rights council called for an investigation into the alleged forced and polygamous marriage of a 17-year-old girl to a police chief 30 years her senior in the mainly Muslim Chechnya region.
Elena Masyuk said the council should determine whether Russian law was violated when Nazhud Guchigov, 47, married Kheda Goylabiyeva on Saturday amid reports that the underage bride’s family was pressured into the wedding and that Guchigov already had a wife, according to a statement posted on the council’s website on Wednesday. It said the case may need to be sent to prosecutors.
Chechnya’s strongman ruler Ramzan Kadyrov, a protege of President Vladimir Putin, endorsed the marriage and said that the bride willingly entered into the relationship. In an Instagram post, he accused “liberals” of spreading lies to provoke controversy after Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported that the police chief had threatened reprisals against the girl’s family unless they agreed to the wedding.
Kadyrov, who recently clashed with the central government by ordering his forces to shoot at police officers entering Chechnya from other parts of Russia, has previously spoken in favor of polygamy as permissible under Sharia law. The head of the Chechen leader’s administration, Magomed Daudov, called for polygamy to be legalized in Russia in an interview published on Monday by the Gazeta.ru news website.
Kadyrov ordered men to lock up wives who used the WhatsApp messaging service to criticize the marriage, the BBC reported on Tuesday, citing Chechnya’s Grozny TV channel. “Lock them in, do not let them go out, then they will not post anything,” Kadyrov said.
Russian law permits someone under 18 to marry only in “exceptional circumstances” and there’s no evidence for that in this case, Masyuk said in her statement. The police chief “now has two wives,” she said.
The controversy has stirred intense debate among Russians on the Internet. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the wedding when asked about it on a conference call with reporters.
Pavel Astakhov, the presidential commissioner for children’s rights, sparked anger when he defended the wedding last week, telling a radio interviewer that “there are places where women are already shriveled at age 27.” He apologized for an “awkward comparison” in an Instagram post the next day.