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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ingushetia President Defends Polygamy

Unfazed by federal officials who say his decree permitting polygamy is illegal, Ingushetia's President Ruslan Ausheyev said at a Moscow news conference that he expected a sharp increase in the number of Ingush men with more than one wife.

"No president, no government, no law can force a man to give up his second wife or children," said Ausheyev, who maintains that his July 19 decree permitting up to four wives only legalizes what is already fact back home.

He argued that some Ingush men had several wives even before the North Caucasian ethnic group adopted Islam, which allows polygamy, some 150 years ago.

Aushev said he expects the number of polygamists to rise from the current level, which he said was 2 percent.

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko strongly criticized Aushev's decree on Thursday. "This decision is incompatible with federal legislation," she was quoted as saying by Interfax. "The Russian Justice Ministry has already warned Ingush leaders about this."

"I respect various religions and traditions, but as a woman I am outraged by the very possibility of one man having several wives," she said. "This is immoral and offensive for a woman."

Aushev said some men are "compelled" to take a second wife when the first one fails to give birth to a son. He said some Ingush males have had to marry three times just to get a male heir, highly desirable in North Caucasian families.

Another reason to get a second wife is if the first one falls ill and can't look after her children, he said. Aushev said his decree will also finally allow polygamous families to have all their children registered as the husband's legal offspring.

The also gives a chance to "unfortunate" spinsters confined to life at home with their families in tiny villages, where women outnumber men, Aushev said. There are three times more women than men living in Ingushetia.

Asked by a female foreign reporter what exactly there is for an Ingush woman to gain from being somebody's second wife, Aushev said: "You travel much and can marry a Chinese, an African or whomever you like, while our women don't have such opportunity."

The Ingush leader stressed, however, that a woman would still be able to divorce her husband if he turns out to be unable to support all of his wives. Indeed, Ingush clans maintain close ties with their female children even after they get marriedand can force their husbands to let them go if there is sufficient reason, such as health problems.

Polygamy existed in the Moslem republics of the North Caucasus and Central Asia even during Soviet times, even though it was impossible to register children of a second wife as the husband's legal offspring.

Chechnya has already legalized polygamy. The parliament of Chechnya's Urus Martan district, for instance, has adopted a law that calls on local officials to promote polygamy by marrying two more wives themselves. The law even promises faster promotion for officials who have two or more wives.