January 19, 2011
"The spiritual leaders of Muslim Chechnya have ordered that all couples who plan to marry prove they are HIV-negative, sparking outrage from activists and residents who say it violates Russian law," Reuters reports in an article that explores the growing power of the spiritual leaders in the region and how intravenous drug use (IDU) is contributing to rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Russia. "[T]he United Nations says at least 1 million people are HIV-positive -- though Chechnya has been little affected by it," according to the news service. "'Any potential bride or groom is obliged to receive a medical certificate proving they are HIV-negative,' the Chechen mufti's press service said in a statement this week," Reuters writes. "An imam can only approve of a marriage once the HIV-negative certificate is obtained," the news service adds. The article notes "the mufti's orders have no legal weight but are generally followed because he is a respected spiritual leader and because of his ties to Chechnya's hardline leader Ramzan Kadyrov" (1/18).