This disturbing cultural trend of Bride kidnapping exists in Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Karakalpakstan. The young man decides he wishes to marry and asks his parents to pick him out a suitable bride, or is told by his parents that it is time he settled down and that they have found someone of the right background and attributes. (In this sense it is similar to an arranged marriage, although the arranging is all on one side.) The prospective groom and his male relatives or friends or both abduct the girl (in the old nomadic days, on horseback; now often by car) and take her to the family home, where the older women of the family try to get her to accept the marriage. They may do this by pointing out the advantages of the union, such as the wealth of their smallholding, to show her what she would gain by joining their family. Some families will keep the girl hostage for several days to break her will. Others will let her go if she remains defiant; she may, for example, refuse to sit down or to eat, as a sign that she is refusing their proferred hospitality. During this period the groom typically does not see the bride until she has agreed to marry or at least has agreed to stay. The kidnapped woman's family may also become involved in the process, either urging the woman to stay (particularly if the marriage is believed socially acceptable or advantageous for the prospective bride and her family), or opposing the marriage on various grounds and helping to liberate the woman.
While less violent than that practiced elsewhere, the essence of the process, in the model above, is still the same and in some cases does result in sexual violence. Such social stigma is attached that the kidnapped woman usually feels that she has no choice but to agree, and some of those who refuse even commit suicide after the kidnapping. The matter is somewhat confused by the local use of the term bride kidnap to reflect practices along a continuum, from forcible abduction and rape (and then, almost unavoidably, marriage), to something akin to an elopement arranged between the two young people, to which both sets of parents have to consent after the fact. Although the practice is illegal in Kyrgyzstan, bride kidnappers are rarely prosecuted, because many villages are de facto ruled by councils of elders following traditional cultural practices, away from the eyes of the state legal system. It was the Russian and later USSR colonizing powers that made the ancient practice of the nomads illegal, and so with the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent liberation of the Central Asian nations, many have harked back to old customs as a way of asserting cultural identity.
|Liveleak on Facebook|