In some countries, a horrific practice known as “bride kidnapping” is still practiced. The ancient custom sees young girls, who often only have a fleeting -or no- acquaintance with their bridegroom, kidnapped and forced into a marriage union.
Several countries, including Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Chechnya, Armenia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and South Africa, still practice the kidnappings. Bride kidnapping, or “ala kachuu” – meaning “to take and run away”- is still common in Kyrgyzstan. According to the New York Post, nearly 12,000 young women and girls, or 1 in 4 females, may be kidnapped for marriage every year.
The kidnapped brides are often very young, according to a report from Duke University. It says the average age for kidnapped brides is 19. “Girls Not Brides,” a global charity, reports that nearly 1 in 10 girls in Kyrgyzstan get married before they turn 18.
The Post reports:
The groom often gathers a group of his friends and they simply drive around looking for a young woman he likes the look of.
The women in the groom’s family then attempt to bully the abducted female into marriage. They often physically restrain the woman and place a white scarf on her head (the headscarf is highly symbolic — when she agrees to wear it, the marriage is considered to be a done deal.)
Newsweek reports that close to 84 percent of the kidnapped women agree to the nuptials, often feeling pressure from their parents to do so. After being held captive, she is considered to be no longer pure, especially considering her kidnapper may rape her to gain her agreement. In 2013, 2,000 out of 12,000 women reported being raped during cases of forced abduction.
“In order to avoid disgrace, many women tend to remain with their kidnappers,” Newsweek reports.
The country outlawed bride kidnapping in 2013, but according to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), there was only one conviction for bride kidnapping between 2008 and 2015. Reportedly, authorities “look the other way” when it comes to the ancient custom, as they feel like it’s cultural, because as nomads, their ancestors “carried off” women to be brides.
“People use justifications for bride kidnapping,” anthropologist David Gullette says. “It’s a highly romanticized vision.”
Poorer males often do it because they cannot afford the traditional “bride price” to gain a wife, the report says. However the practice has far reaching effects, including the mortality of the brides and the health of their children.
Kyrgyzstan’s youngest female member of parliament, Aida Kasymalieva, had a dismal outlook on the men in the area. She says that male members of parliament will walk out of discussions, rather than address women’s rights in the country.
“Men will never think about domestic violence and kidnapping,” Kasymalieva told Reuters.
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