"It's a Crime. Stop Calling it Tradition" A Girl's Fight Against Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
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In the former Soviet republic, thousands of young girls are kidnapped every year to be forced into marriage, often encountering rape, domestic abuse and even murder in their new homes. Although the practice was outlawed in Kyrgyzstan in 2013, the act still continues, with destructive consequences for the rest of society.
For Nazira* a 23 year old law student, ala kachuu is a painful part of her country’s history. “I decided to originally study law to stop it altogether,” she said, from her home in Bishkek. Ever since she has come of age, Nazira has been part of protests, promoted organisations fighting ala kachuu and dreams on working to shape the Kyrgyz constitution. “But it’s not even about law now. It’s about changing social perspectives around the crime. And it should be called that…a crime, we have to stop justifying it in the name of tradition,”.
Historically in Kyrgyzstan, if a man decided he wanted to kidnap a girl, he would gather his friends and wait for the right time. The girl would then be dragged into the car, with the help of his friends, then forced into a wedding dress by the man’s family as soon as she arrived home. The family would “persuade” her to stay, by resorting to both physical and mental abuse. This part of the process could last days until the girl “conceded”.
“The practice is luckily, way less popular now,” Nazira tells us “After Burulai’s’ murder, it’s as if people woke up and saw how inhumane the practice was,”. Burulai was a 20 year old medical student who was meant to marry the man she loved. Instead, she was kidnapped, and when her father called the police, they left Burulai in custody with her kidnapper where she was consequently stabbed to death.
“It caused a national stir, people from all ages realised how our system had failed women. Now people are fighting back,”. In Kyrgyzstan, bride kidnapping is now widely discussed, and is no longer taboo around the table “Kids are now being taught that this practice isn’t acceptable. Men are realising, this isn’t how you treat women. And women also, are fighting back. I hope this positive momentum can keep going, in honour of Burulai,”.
But it isn’t just in Kyrgyzstan that we need to address. “We have our organisations, and thanks to them, bride kidnapping is becoming less and less common,” she says “But other countries aren’t getting the same attention. In countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, bride kidnapping is still very common. We need to fight for our sisters there,”.
To educate yourself on Ala Kachuu, I would recommend starting here (warning: sensitive content)