Monday, October 21, 2013

Bride Kidnapping (Marriage Abduction)

"In rural Kyrgyzstan men still marry their women the old-fashioned way: by abducting them off the street and forcing them to be their wife. Bride kidnapping is a supposedly ancient custom that's made a major comeback since the fall of Communism and now accounts for nearly half of all marriages in some parts. We traveled to the Kyrgyz countryside to follow/aid and abet a young groom named Kubanti as he surprised his teenage girlfriend Nazgul with the gift of marriage/kidnapping."
Hosted by Thomas Morton | 
Bride kidnapping, also known as marriage by abduction or marriage by capture, is a practice throughout history and around the world in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry. Bride kidnapping occurs in countries spanning Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and parts of Africa, and among peoples as diverse as the Hmong in Southeast Asia, the Tzeltal in Mexico, and the Romani in Europe.

This poster of a woman who was bride-kidnapped –with tape on her mouth to symbolize her inability to speak out– was produced by the UN for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign 2011, Kyrgyzstan. Photo credit: UN Gender Theme Group Kyrgyzstan/Baktybek Meimanbekov / [Source:]

Understanding Bride Kidnapping

Kazakh Women and the Post-Soviet Transition. For Kazakh women, the post-Soviet "transition" has reversed a number of positive developments that emerged in the Soviet era. Women who once benefitted from policies that guaranteed education, employment, daycare, and medical care are now faced with a situation where unemployment is rampant, daycare is nonexistent, and higher education and health care are no longer affordable. Furthermore, Marxist ideals that promoted gender equality are being replaced with new nationalist ideals that emphasize more "traditional" gender roles.

Non-Consensual versus Consensual Bride Kidnapping. In the southern regions of Kazakhstan, the impact of the post-Soviet transition is best exemplified by the rise of non-consensual bride kidnapping. Bride kidnapping is one of several paths to marriage, most of which now involve the consent of both the bride and the groom. Bride kidnapping has a long history in Kazakhstan, and the majority of kidnappings involve the bride's implicit or explicit consent. In a typical case, the bride verbally consents to marriage one day and then her boyfriend later surprises her by "kidnapping" her on an unplanned date. In a slightly different version, the groom may kidnap a girl whom he feels has implicitly consented to marriage with him, by responding positively to his attention or by going on a number of dates with him. In the case of non-consensual bride kidnapping, a woman is physically kidnapped by a man she hardly knows or by a man she is clearly not interested in. With the help of friends, the kidnapper takes the girl to his parent's house, where the girl is expected to "consent" to the marriage by taking the symbolic marriage scarf and by writing a letter home to her parents. It is difficult for a kidnapped bride to get out of the marriage after she has been taken to the young man's house. Both families pressure her to stay in the marriage by reminding her that her reputation will be ruined and her entire family will be shamed if she returns home. Many of the kidnapped brides are college-educated women with career aspirations. Their life plans are changed irrevocably when they are kidnapped by a family that may not support their decision to continue their education and career.

Motives for Bride Kidnapping. In the past and in the present, the motives for kidnapping and the level of female consent vary greatly from case to case. In the past, brides were typically kidnapped when the boy's family was too poor to pay the bridewealth and/or the girl's father did not consent to the marriage. Today, it is more common for a bride to be kidnapped to speed up the process of getting married and/or to reduce the costs. Kidnap marriages are less expensive and less complicated than the most common alternative--an arranged marriage. In many cases, a bride is kidnapped because the groom is worried that another suitor will marry his chosen bride first. In a few cases, a bride is kidnapped because she is already pregnant with the groom's child. In the case of non-consensual bride kidnapping, most brides are kidnapped because the groom knows that the girl would not otherwise agree to the marriage.


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