Saturday, April 30, 2005
Forced marriages in Kyrgyzstan
When Ainur Tairova realized she was on her way to her wedding, she started choking the driver.
Her marriage was intended to be to a man she had met only the day before, and briefly at that. Several of his friends had duped her into getting into a car; they picked up the would-be groom and then headed for his home.
Once there, she knew, her chances of leaving before nightfall would be slim, and by daybreak, according to local custom, she would have to submit to being his wife or leave as a tainted woman.
Such abductions are common here. More than half of Kyrgyzstan's married women were snatched from the street by their husbands in a custom known as "ala kachuu," which translates roughly as "grab and run." In its most benign form, it is a kind of elopement, in which a man whisks away a willing girlfriend. But often it is something more violent.
Recent surveys suggest that the rate of abductions has steadily grown in the last 50 years and that at least a third of Kyrgyzstan's brides are now taken against their will.
The practice has technically been illegal for years, first under the Soviet Union and more recently under the 1994 Kyrgyz criminal code, but the law rarely has been enforced.
"Most people don't know it's illegal," said Russell Kleinbach, a sociology professor at American University in Bishkek whose studies of the practice have helped spur a national debate.
The few prosecutions that do occur are usually for assault or rape, not for the abductions themselves. There are no national statistics on how many kidnappings go awry, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that some end in tragedy.
Read the rest.