Unholy Matrimony

Noriko Hayashi

Around two thirds of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan are the result of Ala Kachuu, or 'grab and run', a practice of indeterminate origin where men kidnap the women they want to marry and bring them back to their home. Though illegal, the practice remains widespread and authorities generally turn a blind eye.~~In Kyrgyzstan, almost two thirds of all marriages are thought to be the result of ala kachuu ('grab and run'), or bride kidnapping. Around 15,000 women a year are thought to be the target of abductions by their suitors. Though illegal since 1994, the authorities largely turn a blind eye to the practice. There is some confusion about the different types of 'kidnapping' since some young couples may act out a kidnapping scenario which they then get their parents to retrospectively sanction. It is clear, however, that a majority of the abductions occur against the women's will.

Most commonly, the putative groom will gather a group of young men and charter a car to go and look for the woman he wants to marry. Unsuspecting women are then often dragged off the street and bundled into the car which takes them straight to the man's house where frequently the family will have already started to make preparations for the wedding. ~~Once at the house of the man, the woman is taken behind a koshogo, or curtain, where various tactics are employed to cajole and intimidate her into accepting the offer of marriage. Older female relatives often take it upon themselves to convince the young brides-to-be that they should accept and loaves of bread are laid on the floor to block the way to the door since it is considered rude to step over what is the main staple of the country. Women are also deemed to be impure in Kyrgyz tradition once they enter the house of a man and many will submit to avoid disgrace for themselves and their families.~~Supporters of the practice point to Kyrgyz tradition and take umbrage at talk of women's rights and the law. Though undoubtedly the practice is widespread in Kyrgyzstan and other parts of central Asia and the Caucasus, some believe that it only dates back to the 19th century and increased during the Sovietisation of the country in the 1930s and 1940s. Russel Kleinbach of the Kyz Korgon Institute, an NGO campaigning against bride kidnapping, points to the fact that it is also contrary to Islam, the official religion of Kyrgyzstan. ~~Marriages resulting from bride kidnapping are also thought to result in significantly higher rates of domestic abuse and divorce and numerous cases of suicide amongst women who were kidnapped have been recorded.~~Noriko Hayashi went to explore the issue and tells the story of four women who have been affected by this phenomenon: Fardia, a 20 year old woman who was kidnapped but resisted and ended up being rescued by her brother from her suitor's family; Cholpon and Dinara, two women who were kidnapped and, for one reason or another, decided to give in and get married; and Urus, a young woman who was kidnapped and released but committed suicide after the ordeal.

 

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      Kyrgyzstan

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      © Noriko Hayashi

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