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Last Updated: Monday, 6 October, 2003, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Roma rivalry over child bride ban
By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News

One of Romania's rival gypsy kings has thrown his weight behind the campaign to stop child marriages among the Roma.

In his first decree, King Tortica has banned his subjects from allowing their children to wed until they come of age.

Ana-Maria Cioaba after her wedding
Ana-Maria Cioaba's wedding has split the gypsy community
His decree follows the controversial marriage in Romania on 27 September of the schoolgirl daughter of Tortica's main opponent, self-proclaimed Roma king Florin Cioaba.

King Tortica, based near the Romanian town of Pitesti, describes himself as a gypsy monarch for the 21st century.

He says young girls should be given sweets, not men to marry.

In his decree, posted on his website, Tortica says girls should not be allowed to wed until they are 16 and the age limit for boys has been set at 17.

Couple separated

Tortica's stand intensifies the battle to become the undisputed king of the Roma.

His main rival, scrap metal merchant King Florin Cioaba, is in deep trouble with the Romanian authorities after forcing his daughter Ana-Maria, whose age is reported as either 12 or 14, to go through with a marriage which friends claim she rejected.

The Romanian child protection agency has forced Ana-Maria to separate from her 15-year-old husband and has required both children to live at home with their parents in the Transylvanian town of Sibiu.

Although Cioaba has nominally complied, there is considerable doubt over whether the government edict is being obeyed, because the two families are next-door neighbours and there is a gate that links their properties.

Romania is under substantial pressure from the European Union to eliminate child marriages.

But Cioaba's faction is determined to preserve the centuries-old tradition, which it believes preserves higher moral standards and acts as a bulwark against divorce.

Gypsy child couple separated
02 Oct 03  |  Europe
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30 Sep 03  |  Europe
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17 Jul 03  |  Photo Gallery

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