Kyrgyzstan announces campaign against bride kidnapping
A month campaign to fight bride kidnapping has been announced in Kyrgyzstan, where, according to the ombudsman of the republic, the number of kidnapped girls is now estimated at 15,000-16,000. The would-be bridegrooms view this practice as part of the national tradition, although it is considered a crime.
Bride kidnapping is an old practice, which used to be widely spread in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East. Unlike today, marriage by abduction was more a cultural rite rather than an act of violence. A man used to steal a woman he wished to marry after receiving permission from her relatives. “What happens today is distortion of cultural values. – says cultural expert for the Russian Academy of Sciences, Leonid Kitayev-Smyk. – Bride kidnapping originated as a rite in which a man was supposed to demonstrate his courage and potency. He did not simply steal a bride but he opposed her family members, whose task was to prevent the theft. Meanwhile, today it looks more like a kind of slavery when women are treated as hostages. In the past, by abducting a bride a man paid kalym (bride wealth) to her family and promised to protect her in case of an enemy invasion. The situation is very different today: those men who lack enough money to marry a girl legally, decide to abduct a bride. I think this is a sign of the weakening masculinity. Many Kyrgyz young men travel to Russia as labor migrants to earn money for kalym. For those who have no money, bride kidnapping is the only way out amid the deepening economic decline in Kyrgyzstan. The richer the country is - the fewer cases of abductions are."
Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz authorities have launched a special campaign to prevent bride kidnapping: they organize meetings with locals to explain them that marriage by abduction is illegal, and also discuss the situation with the police. Bride kidnapping is a crime, no matter what reasons people use to justify it.