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Newlyweds arrive at a civil marriage-registration office in Dushanbe.
KHATLON, Tajikistan -- Six sets of Tajik parents have gone on trial for forcing their underage daughters into marriage.

Local officials in the southern Khatlon Province said the criminal cases against the parents were launched amid what they called a "worrying rise in early marriages."

If found guilty, the parents would face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

In Tajikistan, the legal age for marriage is 18.

Official divorce rates are high in Tajikistan, and according to Khatlon officials at least 50 percent of marriages end in break-up.

The authorities link the high divorce rate -- especially among young couples -- to early marriages.

They say the ongoing trial should serve as a "warning" to other parents who consider forcing their underage daughters into marriage.

Local Islamic leaders in the predominantly Muslim country say they agree with the authorities' campaign.
Roman Dobrokhotov (center) is detained by the police outside the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
An activist opposed to Vladimir Putin's continued rule says authorities have offered no official explanation for why he was detained after he attempted to pray for Russia's liberation from president-elect at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

Police reportedly forced Roman Dobrokhotov into a car April 29 after he tried to enter the church to pray for Russia's deliverance from Putin, who has led Russia as president and prime minister for the last 12 years and is due to begin another presidential term in May.

Dobrokhotov said he was beaten by several men after he was released from custody.

The case comes amid the ongoing prosecution by Russian authorities of three members of the female band Pussy Riot, who were arrested after staging a performance against Putin inside the cathedral in February.

WATCH: Orthodox Christian believers and police scuffled with a group of opposition activists who were trying to enter Russia's largest Orthodox cathedral on April 29. The activists had planned to stage a public prayer for Russia to be saved from Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin. One opposition activist was reportedly detained by the police. RFE/RL's Russian Service
Anti-Putin Activists, Christians Clash At Moscow Cathedral
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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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