Armenia could be facing a fight with its largest ethnic minority, the Yezidis, over the age-old, thorny question of how old a female must be before she can marry.
In late July, the Armenian government raised the legal age of marriage for women from 17 years old to 18 years old, the same age as for men. The government claims that the new minimum age will help eliminate gender inequality in Armenia – a claim many observers dispute -- and bring the country into compliance with the United Nations’ 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
But senior representatives of the country’s 60,000-member Yezidi community insist that the change is “inhumane” and that young Yezidis will ignore it.
“An 18-year-old girl is already a spinster for us,” elaborated Aziz Tamoian, chairperson of The Yezidi National Union of Armenia and the World, a Yerevan-based non-governmental organization. “Adoption of such a bill will only ruin our families and make Yezidi girls unhappy.”
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter in Yerevan and the editor of MediaLab.am.