Russian official causes outrage with 'shrivelled women' remarks
by Shaun Walker
Friday 15 May 2015
Women queue in a market in Sovetov square, Kemerovo, Russia. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty
Russia’s top children’s rights official has caused controversy by defending the right of middle-aged men to marry teenagers, on the basis that women are often “shrivelled” by the time they turn 27.
Pavel Astakhov has previously supported banning the adoption of Russian children by Americans, and resisted the introduction of sex education in schools.
On Thursday, he came out in support of a middle-aged police chief in Chechnya who apparently plans to take a 17-year-old schoolgirl as a second wife. The case, which has been making headlines in Russia in recent days, came to light after a report was published in the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The article alleged that the girl’s family had received threats about the consequences if they did not allow the marriage.
Polygamy is technically illegal under Russian law, but is fairly common in Chechnya. There has been confusion over whether the police chief remained married to his first wife, and denials that the 17-year-old girl was opposed to the union. However, many have questioned whether such a union could ever be appropriate.
Astakhov disagreed, and said there were some Russian regions where marriage at 17 or even as young as 14 was still appropriate. “Emancipation and sexual maturity come earlier in the Caucasus, let’s not be hypocritical. There are places where women are already shrivelled by the age of 27, and look about 50 to us,” he said in a radio interview on Thursday.
Astakhov apologised for his “mistake” on Friday, in idiosyncratic fashion. “Women of any age are wonderful and delightful,” he wrote on his Instagram feed. “The Lord created woman so we could love her, defend her, care for her and praise her. An awkward comparison or misplaced word taken out of context does not change my attitude towards the fair sex. I loved, love and will always love and respect women. I apologise for the mistake I made.”
Reports from Chechnya suggested that the marriage would take place on Saturday. Local human rights activists said they had spoken to the woman and she was not against the union. Local authorities said they may sue the journalist who initially broke the story.
Later on Friday, Astakhov returned to the theme on his Instagram feed, and said it was important not to confuse marriage and sex. “You should not be worried about early marriages … but about the early sex life of teenagers. The two need to be kept separate. Romeo and Juliet dreamed of getting married, not of intimate relations.”
Source: Guardian UK.