In Kyrgyzstan – one of the few places to collect data – the practice has been on the increase since the fall of communism. Some believe this violent subversion of a tradition (which was historically for show and done with the consent of the wife) has become popular to avoid the embarrassment of being unable to afford a dowry.
Up to a third of all ethnic Kyrgyz women in Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped brides, and some studies suggest that, in certain regions, the rates of bride kidnapping account for up to 80 per cent of marriages.
In six villages scrutinised for a recent survey, almost half of the 1322 marriages registered were from bride kidnapping, and up to two-thirds were non-consensual.
…”Once bride kidnapping was characteristic mostly in rural areas, but it has become widespread everywhere, including the capital, Bishkek,” says Gazbubu Babayarova, founder of the Kyz Korgon Institute, an organisation that campaigns to eliminate bridenapping in Kyrgyzstan.Most people in Kyrgyzstan view the practice as a tradition rather than a crime. There is such a thing as “consensual” bridenapping, where the bride agrees to be taken as part of a custom, but a more violent version of this “tradition” has grown in the 21st century.
Russell Kleinbach, a professor at Philadelphia University who is an expert on the issue, believes it is only since the 1950s that this tradition has morphed into something that is widespread, brutal and non-consensual.
Ms Babayarova is herself an example of how this custom has spread to urban, educated Kyrgyz communities.
Seven years ago, she was kidnapped by one of her closest friends, who was a medical student. He did not accept her protestations that she did not want anything more than friendship and entered into an arrangement with both their parents to kidnap her.
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