Why the tradition of bride kidnapping must end

Bride kidnapping, mainly in Central Asia and the Caucuses, is an unfortunate tradition where a man kidnaps the woman whom he plans to marry. By doing so, the woman is forced to marry him, or else her refusal is looked down upon by the community.

In Kyrgyzstan, this tradition is called “ala kachuu,” which means “to take and run away.” The United Nations Population Fund found that 16 to 23% of women are kidnapped for marriage, the average age reported was 19. Keep in mind that bride kidnapping and child marriage is illegal in Kyrgyzstan.

The girls and women are forcefully taken from the streets, schools, parks, etc., stuffed into a car, and taken to the abductors home, where he has already notified his family in advance. Once they arrive, they are already waiting with food, sweets, more relatives and a scarf to put over the woman’s head. If they are able to put the scarf on her, then that means she “accepts” the marriage. Even if the women are still finishing school, or just didn’t feel ready yet, they are given no choice but to marry — especially since the man’s side of the family will continue to force her, using culture as an excuse.

“Young boys, who joke that they will kidnap a girl themselves one day, are the ones who should be educated. They should hear the stories of young girls who have experienced kidnapping, see their tears, and feel how deeply they have been wounded by what people in Kyrgyzstan call a “tradition” — even though it is not,” said Iris Oppelaar on VoicesonCentralAsia.org.

This is a shameful practice itself, not something the abductors and his friends should take pride in. “Bride Kidnapping perpetuates Rape Culture and a paradigm where women are not autonomous within their own bodies and are forced to cower under the weight of patriarchy and misogyny,” said Nicole Bedford on the Medium. Bride kidnapping is demeaning and should not continue to be normalized in villages.

From watching the VICE documentary available on YouTube called “Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan,” one of the abductors, the grooms friend, said they knew the police in the area and could talk them out of them getting in trouble for the kidnapping.

Seeing how some people still feel strongly in support of this tradition and indulge themselves in the practice is unacceptable. Women and girls face depression, anxiety and stress from the kidnapping itself, along with cases of suicide. Research by Duke University reported that babies born from kidnapped brides weigh 80–190 grams less than babies born from arranged brides.

This is not culture, this is an immoral practice passed down from families from generation to generation. Education needs to break this passing as women and girls have the right over themselves.