Bride kidnapping, or “bridenapping”, happens in at least 17 countries around the world, from China to Mexico to Russia to southern Africa. In each of these lands, there are communities where it is routine for young women and girls to be plucked from their families, raped and forced into marriage. Few continents are not blighted by the practice, yet there is little awareness of these crimes, and few police investigations.
Well, you see, it’s something that happens to women and girls, and it doesn’t matter what happens to them. They aren’t really people you know. They look like people, sort of, but that’s deceptive – it’s just an outer thing, like the skin on a mango. They’re not really real people who feel things and think about things, the way you and I do. They’re hollow inside. It doesn’t matter what happens to them.
Up to a third of all ethnic Kyrgyz women in Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped brides, and some studies suggest that, in certain regions, the rates of bride kidnapping account for up to 80 per cent of marriages. In six villages scrutinised for a recent survey, almost half of the 1,322 marriages registered were from bride kidnapping, and up to two-thirds were non-consensual. Earlier this year, two 20-year-old students committed suicide after falling victim to bridenapping. The deaths of Venera Kasymalieva and Nurzat Kalykova prompted demonstrations in their home province of Issyk-Kul, but little has changed.
Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a reflex. It’s like lobsters trying to get out of the boiling water.
Aminata Touré, chief of the Gender, Human Rights and Culture branch of the UN Population Fund, said: “What we really need is more research to come up with the level of the problem. For something to be registered as a crime, it has to be reported; that’s the problem, because it’s often seen as a cultural practice and not a crime. When it’s not perceived as a crime, it becomes even harder for this practice to be registered as one.
“These are issues that sometimes it is problematic even to talk about. The bottom line is that women are considered as commodities – both by the husband who takes them and their own families who accept a deal.”
It’s a beautiful romantic traditional way to get possession of a commodity.