Nearly 200 people gathered in the town of Karakol in the Issyk-Kul Province of Kyrgyzstan this week to protest the ancient practice of bride kidnapping. Activists and local women’s NGOs organized the protest titled “Spring without Them” in response to the recent suicides of two kidnapped brides: Venera Kasymalieva and Nurzat Kalykova.
Kalykova had refused the marriage proposal of her husband before he kidnapped her in November of 2010, but many kidnapped brides do not know their captors. Bride kidnapping is illegal in Kyrgyzstan and punishable by three years in prison. However, few cases ever make it to court and the few men that are tried only pay a small fine.
Research done by the Kyz-Korgon Institute indicates that 68-75% of marriages in Kyrgyzstan are a result of bride kidnapping. The recent increase in the practice may be a result of economic difficulty, as kidnapping eliminates the need for dowries or excessive wedding expenses. Psychological factors may also contribute, as kidnapping eliminates the possibility of rejection. The largest factor in the increase of the practice is that the abductions go largely unpunished and, therefore, continue to occur.
The protesters in Karakol demanded the increased enforcement of existing laws against bride kidnapping and for the punishment of the captors.
Compiled from: Bride Kidnapping: A Tradition or a Crime?, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Interagency Gender Working Group, (21 May2011).