Russia: Early and forced marriage in the North Caucasus

Ad Rem has published a report on the problem of early and forced marriages in the Russian Federation




Article published on the ASI website


The Ad Rem project and its team comprising lawyer Yulia Antonova, psychologist Inna Ayrapetyan and sociologist Kulsam Magomadova have published a report on forced marriages to coincide with International Children’s Day. It was compiled following a study of the phenomenon in the Russian Federation and focused on examples drawn from the Republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya.


The researchers carried out 46 detailed interviews with women who have experienced early or forced marriages, as well as practitioners who provide help to young women and girls in such situations.


*Early and forced marriages


According to the research team “Early and/or forced marriage is a form of human rights abuse and is seen under international human rights law to be an example of modern-day slavery that particularly affects women”.


The report’s authors found that the tradition of bride kidnapping is still a widespread practice. Despite this, no official, systematic or concerted efforts are being made to prevent forced marriages in Russia which are routinely justified as merely part of local traditional, religious or cultural customs.


“Reliable up-to-date statistical data on bride abductions in Russia today are virtually non-existent, due to the fact that victims are still too scared to come forward and report what has happened to them for fear of public vilification. More often than not, these young girls prefer to come to terms with what took place and resign themselves to their fate. Law enforcement authorities, in turn, ignore their complaints and consider bride theft to be a private matter best left to the families concerned”, said the Ad Rem research team.


The impacts of early and forced marriages


The team concluded that gender discrimination is one of the main reasons for the spread of these practices, which is reflected in patriarchal attitudes that see women not as independent individuals but as “subordinate to men”.


Forced and early marriages have a number of consequences that the researchers have divided into several categories:


  • Economic abuse and a woman’s lack of access to education;
  • Psychological and physical violence;
  • Sexual abuse: In the study, four female respondents specifically mentioned marital rape and several more spoke of it indirectly;
  • Impacts on women’s health, including those associated with early childbearing.


“Once you’re married, that’s it….It’s like being in a prison in which you have no rights, only duties and responsibilities. You become a housewife, a cook, a cleaner and everything else that goes with it but there is no love or joy in the marriage”. These are the words of Zalina, a young girl from Ingushetia, who was 17 years old when she was abducted, as told to the Ad Rem team.


You can read the whole report on the Ad Rem team’s website (


Last year, the Ad Rem team also produced a report on the problem of child abduction in the North Caucasus republics (


Information notes


*Early marriage is the legal or de facto union of two people, at least one of whom is under the age of 18. Persons under 18 years of age are considered children under international human rights law and, in particular, the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Marriages with or between children are, by definition, deemed to be coerced as the consent of a child cannot be assumed to be voluntary, regardless of their parents’ agreement.


*Forced marriage is a union without the consent of one or both partners which involves physical or psychological abuse. As phenomena, forced and early marriages are closely linked as the latter often involves the abduction of a young girl against her will and is usually accompanied by violence and coercion.


Ad Rem is a team of lawyers and advocates who handle child protection cases, as well as helping women and children affected by discrimination, domestic and sexual violence.






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