Romania Gypsy King Bans Child Marriages

Dorin Cioaba, the self-proclaimed King of the Gypsies in Romania, says he is ready to take on the controverial tradition of marriages in the low teens.

The 43-year-old graduate in law has said that Roma should not get married until they are at least 16.

“We are facing a new, modern world. It is time for all of us to change, so we have decided that Roma marriages should not involve people under 16, which still happens," he said.

"Our children must first to go to school, and then marry,” Cioaba said on Tuesday, announcing a decision of the Stabor (as it is called in Romani language), a court of the community in Romania.

The Stabor, which Cioaba heads, comprises elder leaders, called bulibasa, of different Roma families. The unofficial courthouse is located in Sibiu, in southern Transylvania, a town that is home to a large community of Roma.

“Those who do not comply with the decision risk exclusion from our community as well as legal penalties,” Cioaba added.

Early marriages are still common in the Roma community. In 2003, Florin Cioaba, the father of present Roma leader, who was also a Pentecostal pastor, sparked controversy when he married his 12-year-old daughter, Ana-Maria, to a boy aged 15.

But Dorin Cioaba is now trying to open up discussion in his own community of 200,000 Caldarari, a Roma group who traditionally worked as smiths and metal workers.

He has opened up the workings of the Stabor to the public, and has also encouraged Roma families to send their children to school as part of a broad attempt to combat the poverty that so often stems from a lack of education.

Experts have welcomed Cioaba’s announcement, but say challenging Roma...

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