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Vintage photo of bride kidnapping Kyrgzstan

A vintage Kyrgz photograph shows a woman and four men on horseback in front of a nomad tent in 1872. The woman is shown on the right holding a whip up and is looking back at the men as she raises it in the air. This photo is thought to be one of the early media depictions of bride kidnapping. Image: U.S. Library of Congress

(WNN) Bishkek, KYRGYZSTAN, CENTRAL ASIA: A new legislative bill has just been brought into law in the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan and signed into practice by Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev. The new more stringent legislation now hopes to strengthen the legal protections for women under the conditions of bride kidnapping in the region.

The crime, which previously brought a three year sentence, now brings a seven year sentence.

Bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan is considered a common practice today. It especially grew in prominence over the last decades as the independence as a country outside of what was then the Soviet Union, including the Russian territory, was established. It is thought by some ‘stop bride kidnapping’ advocates that the Soviet banned practice of bride kidnapping gained popularity again in the region as the country became independent in the 1990s. Marriage dowries have been considered by many Kyrgyz grooms to be too “excessive” today and well worth avoiding through bride kidnapping.

The act of kidnapping a young bride is usually not something that happens with the cooperation or wish of a bride. Advocates consider this practice to be most often forced and against international human rights laws.

“Article 16 of The [Universal] Declaration [of Human Rights] clearly establishes that men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. And what is important is that marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses,” outlined an expert meeting sponsored by United Nations in 2009.

While bride kidnapping is now receiving heavier and more stringent penalties, it does not require any dowry, the major factor thought to be encouraging the practice.

Currently human rights advocacy organization, Equality Now, is working with partners on the ground in Kyrgyzstan to urge that the new law is properly implemented in the region. Problems with enforcement of the previous, less stringent law, has run into challenges when regional police also used bride kidnapping to marry their wives. Because of this, and the Kyrgyz culture of saying that “all women must cry before they are married,” leads supporters of the practice to say that forced marriage is not a big issue for women.Up to half of marriages of ethnic Kyrgyz women take place against their will, says the Forum of Women’s NGOs of Kyrgyzstan.  Bride kidnapping today among global advocates is considered an extreme form of violence against women.  It violates the basic rights of women to freedom of movement and freedom from violence. Forced marriage can lead to rape, servitude and denial of educational and other opportunities for women.

A minority of cases still occur today in the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, in the city of Bishkek.“We call on the Kyrgyz President, Almazbek Atambayev, to ensure the successful passage and timely implementation of robust legislation which protects the fundamental human rights of all members of society,” said Jacqui Hunt London Director for Equality Now before the final version of the bill was signed by President Atambayey.  “We also urge President Atambayev to ensure that alleged cases are properly investigated, perpetrators are prosecuted and that an awareness-raising campaign is fully implemented as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy.”


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