Just Free Prostitutes:’ Controversial Russian priest equates ‘common-law wives’ to unpaid sex workers

A senior Russian clergyman has come under fire after he publicly compared unmarried women cohabiting with partners to ‘ladies of the night.’ Despite predictable outrage, Dmitry Smirnov is in no mood to back down.

“Our women do not understand what marriage is. They are reluctant to say, ‘I am a free prostitute’ so they say: ‘I have a common-law marriage,’” he said, at an event with members of the Orthodox community OrthodoxBRO.

“Hello! No, you just provide services for free – and that’s all, and no one counts you as their wife.”

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The Archpriest continued by explaining that, in Russia, there are millions more married women than married men. “How can this be?” he questioned; “it’s very simple. Those men whose women say that they are in a common-law marriage, do not consider their partner to be a wife – just a moment of temporary joy. Because if he treated her like a wife – well, is it difficult to register [the marriage officially], or what?”

The comments caused many strong reactions around Russia, with various politicians and other well-known personalities making public statements.

The Chairperson of the Russian Women’s Union Ekaterina Lakhova told news agency RIA Novosti that Smirnov’s “stupid insult” was “ugly” and “wrong,” and said that the focus should not be on marriage, but creating a “family.”

Oksana Pushkina, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women, and Children, wrote on her Telegram channel that it is “especially unpleasant” to listen to Smirnov’s words, calling him the Orthodox Church’s “most odious representative.”

The reaction from some people within the church itself has also been negative. Episcope [Bishop] Savva, Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, called the Archpriest’s words “insulting” and “unacceptable.” Vladimir Legoyda, who works for the Orthodox Church as a spokesman, wrote that the Archpriest’s comments were merely “unsuccessful trolling.”

It’s not the first time that Smirnov, known for his brash and insulting comments, has sparked mass ire. Most famously, in February 2019, he called abortions “mass murder” and “worse than the Holocaust.”

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