Kyrgyzstan: Bride Theft Custom Fuels Divorce Rate

Eight out of ten divorces in Kyrgyzstan involve brides who were “stolen” by their husbands, women’s rights groups say.
According to this controversial tradition, men kidnap women and pressure them into marriage, after which the bride’s family is presented with a fait accompli.
“I had a boyfriend then, but I had never even spoken to the young man who stole me; I didn’t like him,” said Aida, who got divorced three years ago from the man who kidnapped her.

“We want to make people understand that bride-stealing is a crime, not a tradition,” said a woman working at a crisis centre, one of several groups trying to change social attitudes about the custom.

IWPR reporter Janar Akaev also interviewed Jumagul-Eje, a woman who is planning to arrange for a bride to be kidnapped so her son can get married.

“If the lad steals the bride it works out a lot cheaper – four pillows and four blankets [gift for bride’s family], and that’ll do fine," she said in justification. "But if you arrange it, the costs will be much higher, at list 30,000 or 40,000 soms [up to 950 US dollars] as the ‘bride-price’, and that’s the minimum.”

Other villagers, too, said the custom had worked for them, and after some initial friction between the two families, things had settled down.

6 April 2009

Source: HRW