The Child Bride Whose Tears Have Belied A Gypsy Tradition
SHE'S the "princess
bride" who did not
want to be married. The
arranged union of
12-year-old Ana-Maria Cioaba -
the daughter of a self-
proclaimed Gypsy king - to a
15-year-old has drawn international condemnation and a
Romanian government inquiry.
Ana-Maria made it clear at the
ceremony in Sibiu, central
Romania, she opposed the wedding by storming out of the
church in front of 400 guests.
"Leave me alonel" she
screamed at reporters, swearing
at them as she sought shelter in
a nearby house. Her bridesmaids
chanted slogans against the
groom, Mihai Birita.
"She has been crying all day,
but the marriage will go ahead
with or without her," Dana
Cherendea, an adviser to her
father, Florin, said after the girl
Ana-Maria returned to the
church minutes later and -
though she would hardly look at
him - was duly married off by her
father. After the ceremony the
bride stormed out and refused
to look at the groom, who
walked uncomfortably behind.
"What marriage?" Ana-Maria
said after the ceremony. Her 12
bridesmaids supported her rebellion, chanting, "Out with
Birita!" - referring to the groom.
Human rights activists and
the Government yesterday condemned the arranged marriage,
saying it was illegal and a violation of human rights.
If investigators can determine
that the marriage was consummated, officials could place the
girl in an orphanage, according
to Serban Mihailescu, a top government official.
''It (the marriage) is not recognised by the Romanian
authorities and we have opened
an inquiry to see how this union
between minors was possible,"
Mr Mihailescu said.
He indicated that police
investigation was launched in
reaction to European Union
pressure to seperate the couple.
Baronness Emma Nicholson, the EU
envoy to Romania, has called on authorities
to seperate the couple.
ALTHOUGH the legal age
for marriage in Romania
is 18, the country has generally tolerated the tradition
among Roma - as Gypsies are
also known - to marry early.
Before the ceremony, her
father expressed his delight.
"This is a happy day for the
royal household," he said.
"My youngest daughter is getting married."
The groom is the son of a
wealthy Gypsy family to whom
Ana-Maria was promised for 500
gold coins when she was seven.
A Sibiu police spokesman said
members of the Cioaba family
had given statements to police.
"We are investigating on
charges of sex with a minor," a
police officer said.
Ms Chendea defended the
marriage yesterday and said the
girl 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. It is part of a
tradition for Gypsies and the
marriage shows that traditions
The single Roma member of
parliament, Madalin Voicu, said
the wedding was an "affront" to
the Gypsy community.
"A l2-yr old child cannot
understand the notion of marriage and
the duties appertaining to it," he said.
The marriage was a human
rights violation, said Mark
Percival, the leader of the
Romanian Think Tank, a group
which fights for democratic reforms in Romania.
"I totally condemn this marriage," Percival said.
"It is against European Union
legislation. It is a violation of the
right to marriage because they
are being forced into a marriage
they don't want."
Adelaide Advertiser (2-10-2003)