January 21, 2011
Any couples planning to marry in Muslim Chechnya must prove they are not infected with HIV, the region's spiritual leaders declared this week.
"Any potential bride or groom is obliged to receive a medical certificate proving they are HIV-negative," according to a statement by the Chechen mufti, or professional jurist who interprets Muslim law. An imam can only approve of a marriage once that certificate is obtained. "Only an official representative from the republic's clergymen has that right," the statement added.
The order follows a demand last year that all eateries cease operations during the holy month of Ramadan and the call for armed men to harass women who do not wear headscarves. The mufti's requirements carry no legal weight but are generally followed because he is a respected spiritual leader.
However, activists and some residents in the volatile region are outraged by the new requirement. "This is, of course, not within Russian law," said Minkail Ezhiev, a human rights activist and founder of the Chechen Civil Society Forum. "We wish human rights were taken into account here."
Russia is in the midst of a serious heroin crisis, which could lead to an explosion of HIV/AIDS cases. The UN estimates at least 1 million Russians are HIV-positive, though Chechnya has been largely spared by the epidemic.