History has proved that this is one of the most destructive phrases acting to justify outdated and old-fashioned customs, as the notion of tradition often prevents humanity from evolving. Although it is easy for those raised with cosmopolitan ideas to look onto other cultures and deem them too feudal and backwards, in this instance I would say it is justified. I like to write about things that interest me and that I identity with, but I also like to write about acts of significance that I feel I should address. I may not hold any power – yet – but in this small way I do my part.
We often forget that gender equality is something that may never be realised in parts of the world. The bride kidnapping culture in Kyrgyzstan, the traditional way off getting married, is an example of this. Groomsmen plan the kidnap together and grab the bride off the street to take back to the grooms’ house where female relatives hold her to convince her that marrying him is the right idea. Vices documentary featured filed instances of kidnapping and male family member jokes about being careful and ensuring “her running away” is avoided.
The practice is most common in rural areas where most of all married women are kidnapped. Although the practice is illegal, not many policemen realise this and often few actually care. As well as this, some girls may already be in relationships but, this has no significance to the family of the groom and any previous relationships no longer carry any significance.
Despite claims of the practice being a tradition, the practice has been popularised by the Film “Boz salkyn” released in 2007 which was a pro kidnapping film which resulted in many couples naming their daughter Abseba after the protagonist of the film. Abdyshova Zyinagul a mother of a kidnap victim who was kidnapped at night when she wasn’t home, stated the kidnap destroyed her daughter’s plans for her future, causing depression. However, whilst her parents took her back, the community put pressure on them, condemning them as bad: “saying it is wrong to take her back this is our culture”.
Suicide rates and spousal abuse is higher amongst kidnap marriage couples. In the documentary the future groom stated he was “nervous but excited” with a visibly upset girl in the van restrained by eight men and a crowd of elderly women consoling her stating she “would be happy eventually”. The reasoning behind the humiliating kidnapping is explained by a male elder: “a girl who accepts a marriage proposal is too eager and desperate”, but a girl who says no is an innocent example of the significance of a female’s virtue. The proposal is accepted when the girl “consents” by eating, representing that she accepts the husband’s way of life and has been worn down to the point where she accepts her fate as a new bride. The marriage cloth is then literally forced onto her head and the groom’s family beg her not to remove it. The groom justified the kidnapping to a concerned cameraman by saying that it is normal for a bride to be afraid and that the groom’s family go to the bride’s house and apologise by giving the family a sheep in return to smooth the kidnap over. Obviously a woman and sheep are clearly of the same value.
Many citizens claim that the practice has roots in tradition whereas it began towards the end of the Soviet rule when students were put under pressure by family members to not marry other students from their universities. Young adults were now being encouraged towards education and young marriage was discouraged with the banning of dowries a response to the practice. Therefore, kidnappings were organised to defy both sides of the family. The thought of those innocent girls, girls who definitely do not consent to being kidnapped, is chilling and may result in the dimming of their female aspirations. A wife may simply tolerate her husband and may have to suffer a loveless marriage for the rest of her life.
After the wedding night, bride sheets are hung to prove that the wife is no longer a virgin. Also, as if this is not bad enough, brides are often trapped in and are unable to leave the marriage due to pressure from family and friends and the overall view that she is no longer pure as she has spent a night with a man. Often, when one tries to escape, the groom spreads lies that he has deflowered her and robbed her off her virtue to leave her with meek marriage prospects and no choice but to return. The overwhelming sense of hopelessness amongst all of the females in the documentary could be argued to be a “tradition” in itself. To know that your grandmother was kidnapped, your mother was kidnapped and later in your life you will be as well, must burden young women with the idea that their own futures are out of their control. Girls as young as 15 are kidnapped by older men and are expected to stop their education because of a circumstance that they had no choice in. In order to enact change there must be an agent of change. It’s the 21st century and this tradition is more of a robbery; a robbery of freedom, a robbery of potential and a robbery of love.