by Zhanna M., Global Outreach Fellow, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan, located in Central Asia, is a country of high mountains, wild rivers, magnificent landscapes and unique traditions that Kyrgyz people keep from century to century, generation to generation. Kyrgyz people hold these traditions sacred as they have become an essential part of our life. Every celebration -- birthdays, funerals, baby showers, weddings -- has its own interesting, special ceremony.
But sometimes national traditions change, and change is not always good.
One popular tradition in Kyrgyzstan is “Ala kachuu”, meaning “Grab and run”. Ala kachuu is a tradition of bride kidnapping. When it began it wasn’t actual kidnapping. It was romantic, beautiful, and consensual. When a young couple loves each other and with the permission of their parents, men would "kidnap" their future wife from her parents’ home. After three days, they would have a big wedding.
In 1994, special legislation passed to prohibit marriage against anyone’s will. The law was created to curb violence against women. Unfortunately, it didn't help. Approximately only 7% of bride kidnappings are mutually consensual with the active involvement of a young couple and their parents -- like the original tradition.
However, most of them are real kidnappings.
Nearly 65% of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan are against the bride’s will. Young women sometimes don’t even see the men who kidnapped them until the day of the wedding. These couples aren’t happily married. The young ladies often become servants for the husband's large family which usually includes 15-20 people.
Even before marriage, these girls, who often just graduated from high school, experience domestic violence from the husband's family. About 30% of girls who don't want marriage suffered beatings. Each year, some girls commit suicide because of kidnapping. Victims of kidnapping often become concubines and sources of free labor in the house. Most people don't know this is against the law and not real Ala kachuu.
Unfortunately, we still have such wild problems in our modern society. Women are not things to be stolen and made into servant-wives or maids. Women have been fighting for equal rights for a long time: the right to vote, the right to choose any profession they want, etc. Today, society seems to be equal, yet many women all over the world still need protection for their lives and freedoms and we must acknowledge this.
Zhanna M. is originally from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Currently a high school student, she enjoys playing guitar and piano and participating in athletic pastimes like tennis. After high school, Zhanna aspires to attend university in the USA studying medicine and eventually becoming a doctor. Zhanna wants to help people live a full life, without any health problems. By writing for Equality for HER's Global Outreach Initiative, Zhanna hopes to change her country for the better and show the importance of women's views and opinions.