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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 18:40 GMT 19:40 UK
Gypsy child couple separated
Birita Mihai and Ana-Maria Cioaba
The school age couple have been under investigation
Authorities in Romania have ordered the schoolgirl daughter of a gypsy king to live apart from her new teenage husband.

Anca Dragan, head of child protection services in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu, said the couple would have to cease any marital relations or face being sent to a state institution.

The move follows growing domestic and international anger since Ana-Maria Cioaba married her 15-year-old Roma bridegroom on Saturday.

Her age - reported as either 12 or 14 - and her apparent reluctance to go through with the ceremony led to demands for the authorities to take both children into care.

The case prompted EU Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou to tell Roma people not to plead for help in fighting discrimination while abusing the rights of their own people.

"When fundamental human rights and certain past traditions collide... it is the traditions that must adapt and the human principles that must prevail," she said in a statement on Wednesday.

Criminal inquiry

The girl's father, self-proclaimed Roma king Florin Cioaba, appeared on television on Tuesday to defend the wedding.

"As a father I know what is good for my kids. There are some laws that have to be respected. We Roma have a tradition to marry our children when minors," he said.

Just because something is morally wrong under our culture does not make it morally wrong in all cultures
Paul, UK

Police in Sibiu, where the wedding took place, launched an inquiry and family members gave statements.

But the Roma family called the investigation "a masquerade against the royal household".

The legal minimum age for marriage in Romania is 16, but correspondents say the practice of school-age marriages remains common in the Roma community, and the authorities normally turn a blind eye.

Romania wants to join the European Union in 2007, and a blistering letter from EU envoy Emma Nicholson demanding immediate action may have forced the authorities to act.

Ana-Maria was promised in marriage when she was seven, for the reported sum of 500 gold coins.


The consummation of her marriage was being labelled statutory rape by some of her friends.

Ana-Maria Cioaba and father Florin
Florin Cioaba insists he knows what's best for his children
The bridegroom's family produced sheets after the wedding night to prove the consummation, said a spokeswoman for the Cioaba family.

Cioaba family spokeswoman Dana Chendea said Ana-Maria had begun to "resign herself to her fate".

"They spent the (wedding) night together. It was the deal. Nobody asked her whether she wanted it," she said.

But the Roma community's only member of parliament called the wedding an "affront" to the gypsy community.

Official figures say more than 550,000 Roma live in Romania, but the real number is believed to be more than 1.5 million. Romania has a population of 22 million.

The BBC's Robert Nisbet
"The family were calling it a happy union... her friends called it rape"

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