International rights advocacy group Human Right Watch has called upon the government of Kyrgyzstan to exert more effort in ending the rampant practice of bride kidnapping in the country.
While illegal, the practice called ala kachuu remains an enduring tradition in Kyrgyzstan and many nearby cultures as bride kidnappers are rarely prosecuted.
The plea highlighted the recent case involving a 20-year-old woman from Bishkek who was murdered by an admirer after abducting her to force her into marriage in late April.
A graduate of a medical school, Burulai Turdaaly Kyzy was already planning to marry a Kyrgyz man in a ceremony scheduled for August. After her father notified the authorities of the abduction, they took her and the 29-year-old kidnapper into custody. As soon as the two were left alone together in a room at the police station, the kidnapper reportedly stabbed the victim to death.
HRW researcher Hillary Margolis described the murder as a “sobering reminder that ‘bride kidnapping’ is unequivocally a form of violence against women. Those who excuse the practice often claim it is Kyrgyz culture or tradition. But, as a United Nations statement on Burulai’s case points out, it isn’t tradition. Rather, it’s a human rights abuse that the government should act decisively to stop before more women are harmed.”
Young women in Kyrgyzstan have condemned the practice, stating that the act subjects its victims “to forced and sometimes child marriage often accompanied by abuse, coercion, and emotional and physical violence.”
Following the incident, Kyrgyzstan’s Ombudsman called for an increased penalty for the crime of abduction for marriage.
To discourage bride kidnappings, the government has also taken other steps such as strengthening penalties for abductions and criminalizing religious marriages of children under 18. However, Burulai’s case illustrates that more action is required to finally put a stop to such a despicable act.
Marriage by kidnapping also pushed many Kyrgyz women to suicide in recent years.
Burulai’s parents, unlike many Kyrgyz families, have intervened in the two times she was abducted to prevent her from being a victim of a forced marriage.
Unfortunately, when they contacted the police in her recent abduction, the authorities placed her in grave danger after leaving the two alone together.
HRW pointed out that the government should be proactive in directing authorities in the proper investigation and prosecution of all cases of bride kidnapping and other violence against women in the country.
“Every day, women and girls in Kyrgyzstan live with the risk of being kidnapped for forced marriage. They shouldn’t have to be murdered for it to end,” Margolis wrote.
The group also called for the police to protect victims, and noted that the officials who fail to do so should face disciplinary action.