About 24,000 women were kidnapped and forced into marriage in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan over the past three years, the country’s ombudsman said on Thursday.
Two-thirds of such marriages later fell apart, Tursunbek Akun said in his annual report to the Kyrgyz parliament, Knews.kg reported.
The ombudsman’s office managed to prevent seven forced marriages in the first three months of 2012, with five of the victims returned to their families, Akun said. He did not specify what happened to the other two.
Akun’s figure is less than the data voiced by then-acting President Rosa Otunbayeva last fall, when she said 15,000 females are kidnapped and forced into a marriage every year, many of them later committing suicide.
A national anti-bride-stealing month was declared in Kyrgyzstan in November, but apparently failed to end the practice.
About 20 percent of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan are forced, rights activist Alexandra Yefrenko said in March. Most marriages of the sort are sealed by Islamist clerics, not civil registrars.
The local parliament has pushed in recent months to make civil registration mandatory for cleric-sanctioned matrimonial unions, effectively outlawing forced marriages. However, the legislature declined the bill in January.
Legislator Asiya Sasykbayeva said at the time that her colleagues were looking to protect polygamy, an Islamic tradition formally banned, but de-facto present in Kyrgyzstan, EurasiaNet website reported. Many lawmakers have several wives, Sasykbayeva said.