Kyrgyz protestors rally against bride kidnapping after suicides
Summary of story from RFE/RL, May 21, 2011
Some 200 people took to the streets in Kyrgyzstan’s northern Issyk-Kul Province recently to protest against the custom of bride kidnapping.
The protests come in the wake of the suicides of two 20 year-old students, Venera Kasymalieva and Nurzat Kalykova who were kidnapped earlier this year.
The custom, in which single young men choose a woman, kidnap her and force her into marrying them, is not uncommon in Kyrgyzstan (see WVoN story).
Gazbubu Babayarova, founder of Kyz Korgon Institute, a non-governmental organization that campaigns to eliminate the tradition of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, said that research indicates that between 68 and 75 per cent of marriages in Kyrgyzstan take place with bride kidnapping.
It is officially a criminal offence in Kyrgyzstan, and carries a maximum three-year prison term.
In reality, however, few cases reach the courtroom, and those who are tried usually walk away after paying a small fine.
The protest rally, dubbed “Spring without Them,” was organized by local women’s groups and other activists, and participants called on authorities and community leaders to put an end to the old tradition.
In a tearful address, Venera Kasymalieva’s father, Oken, said his daughter’s kidnapping had ruined his family’s life.
“I call on young men to refrain from kidnapping”, he said. “I don’t wish any young girl to commit suicide in the future. My wife died suddenly five years ago, and that’s why my daughter [Venera] was like a mother to my younger kids.”
Abaz Jyrgalbekov, a 20 year-old man who also joined the rally, said not all Kyrgyz men support the kidnapping tradition.
“It’s a way for insecure men to get girls,” Jyrgalbekov said. “Who usually kidnaps a woman? Guys with no self-confidence; who are afraid that a girl doesn’t like him.”
“I want to marry in a normal way,” he added.