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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Looking for a Wife?

Bride kidnapping

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bride kidnapping, also known as marriage by abduction or marriage by capture, is a practice throughout history and around the world in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry. Bride kidnapping still occurs in countries spanning Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and parts of Africa, and among peoples as diverse as the Hmong in Southeast Asia, the Tzeltal in Mexico, and the Romani in Europe. In most countries, bride kidnapping is considered a sex crime, rather than a valid form of marriage. Some versions of it may also be seen as falling along the continuum between forced marriage and arranged marriage. The term is sometimes used to include not only abductions, but alsoelopements, in which a couple runs away together and seeks the consent of their parents later; these may be referred to as non-consensual and consensual abductions respectively. However, even when the practice is against the law, judicial enforcement remains lax, particularly inBulgariaTurkeyMoldovaKyrgyzstan and Chechnya.
Bride kidnapping is distinguished from raptio in that the former refers to the abduction of one woman by one man (and his friends and relatives), and is still a widespread practice, whereas the latter refers to the large scale abduction of women by groups of men, possibly in a time of war (see also war rape).
Some modern cultures maintain a symbolic kidnapping of the bride by the groom as part of the ritual and traditions surrounding a wedding, in a nod to the practice of bride kidnapping which may have figured in that culture's history. According to some sources, the honeymoon is a relic of marriage by capture, based on the practice of the husband going into hiding with his wife to avoid reprisals from her relatives, with the intention that the woman would be pregnant by the end of the month.[1]

Background and rationale

Though the motivations behind bride kidnapping vary by region, the cultures with traditions of marriage by abduction are generally patriarchal with a strong social stigma on sex or pregnancy outside of marriage and illegitimate births.[2]
A familiar example from the Hebrew Bible is the passage in Book of Judges (Judges 21:19) (7th century BCE based on earlier tradition):
"Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh. (…) Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards. And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them."
In some modern cases, the couple collude together to elope under the guise of a bride kidnapping, presenting their parents with a fait accompli. In most cases, however, the men who resort to capturing a wife are often of lower social status, because of poverty, disease, poor character or criminality.[3] They are sometimes deterred from legitimately seeking a wife because of the payment the woman's family expects, the bride price (not to be confused with a dowry, paid by the woman's family).[4]
In agricultural and patriarchal societies, where bride kidnapping is most common, children work for their family. A woman leaves her birth family, geographically and economically, when she marries, becoming instead a member of the groom's family. (See patrilocality for an anthropological explanation.) Due to this loss of labor, the women's families do not want their daughters to marry young, and demand economic compensation (the aforementioned bride price) when they do leave them. This conflicts with the interests of men, who want to marry early, as marriage means an increase in social status, and the interests of the groom's family, who will gain another pair of hands for the family farm, business or home.[5] Depending on the legal system under which she lives, the consent of the woman may not be a factor in judging the validity of the marriage.
In addition to the issue of forced marriage, bride kidnapping may have other negative effects on the young women and their society. For example, fear of kidnap is cited as a reason for the lower participation of girls in the education system.[6]
The mechanism of marriage by abduction varies by location. This article surveys the phenomenon by region, drawing on common cultural factors for patterns, but noting country-level distinctions.


In three African countries, bride kidnapping often takes the form of abduction followed by rape.


Bride-kidnapping is prevalent in areas of Rwanda.[7] Often the abductor kidnaps the woman from her household or follows her outside and abducts her. He and his companions may then rape the woman to ensure that she submits to the marriage.[8] The family of the woman either then feels obliged to consent to the union,[9] or is forced to when the kidnapper impregnates her, as pregnant women are not seen as eligible for marriage. The marriage is confirmed with a ceremony that follows the abduction by several days. In such ceremonies, the abductor asks his bride's parents to forgive him for abducting their daughter.[9] The man may offer a cow, money, or other goods as restitution to his bride's family.[10]
Bride-kidnap marriages in Rwanda often lead to poor outcomes. Human rights workers report that one third of men who abduct their wives abandon them, leaving the wife without support and impaired in finding a future marriage.[9] Additionally, with the growing frequency of bride-kidnapping, some men choose not to solemnize their marriage at all, keeping their "bride" as a concubine.[9] Domestic violence is also common and is not illegal.[11]
Bride kidnapping is not specifically outlawed in Rwanda, though violent abductions are punishable as rape. According to a criminal justice official, bride kidnappers are virtually never tried in court: "When we hear about abduction, we hunt down the kidnappers and arrest them and sometimes the husband, too. But we're forced to let them all go several days later," says an official at the criminal investigation department in Nyagatare, the capital of Umutara."[9] Women's rights groups have attempted to reverse the tradition by conducting awareness raising campaigns and by promoting gender equity, but the progress has been limited so far.[9]


In parts of Ethiopia, a man working in co-ordination with his friends may kidnap a girl or woman, sometimes using a horse to ease the escape.[12] The abductor will then hide his intended bride and rape her until she becomes pregnant. As the father of the woman's child, the man can claim her as his wife.[13] Subsequently, the kidnapper may try to negotiate a bride price with the village elders to legitimize the marriage.[13] Girls as young as eleven years old are reported to have been kidnapped for the purpose of marriage.[14] Though Ethiopia criminalized such abductions and raised the marriageable age to 18 in 2004, this law has not been well implemented.[15]
The bride of the forced marriage may suffer from the psychological and physical consequences of forced sexual activity and early pregnancy, and the early end to her education.[16] Abductions of schoolgirls still occur in Oromiya, for example.[17] Women and girls who are kidnapped may also be exposed to sexually transmitted diseasessuch as HIV/AIDS.[16]


Forced marriages continue to be a problem for young girls in Kenya. The United States Department of State reports that children and young teenaged girls (aged ten and up) are sometimes married to men two decades or more their seniors.[18]
Marriage by abduction used to be, and to some extent still is, a customary practice for the Kisii ethnic group. In their practice, the abductor kidnaps the woman forcibly and rapes her in an attempt to impregnate her. The "bride" is then coerced through the stigma of pregnancy and rape to marry her abductor. Though most common in the late 19th century through the 1960s, such marriage abductions still occur occasionally.[19]
The Turkana tribe in Kenya also practiced marriage by abduction. In this culture, bridal kidnapping (akomari) occurred before any formal attempts to arrange a marriage with a bride's family. According to one scholar, a successful bridal kidnapping raised the abductor's reputation in his community, and allowed him to negotiate a lower bride price with his wife's family. Should an attempted abductor fail to seize his bride, he was bound to pay a bride price to the woman's family, provide additional gifts and payments to the family, and to have an arranged marriage (akota).[20]

[edit]Central Asia

Map of Central Asia
In Central Asia, bride kidnapping exists in Kyrgyzstan,[21] Kazakhstan,[22] Turkmenistan,[23] and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region ofUzbekistan.[24] Though origin of the tradition in the region is disputed,[25] the rate of nonconsensual bride kidnappings appears to be increasing in several countries throughout Central Asia as the political and economic climate changes.[26]


Despite its illegality,[27] in many primarily rural areas, bride kidnapping, known as ala kachuu (to take and flee), is an accepted and common way of taking a wife.[28] Studies by researcher Russell Kleinbach have found that approximately half of all Kyrgyz marriages include bride kidnapping; of those kidnappings, two thirds are non-consensual.[29] Research by non-governmental organizations raise the estimate of the frequency of bride kidnappings to between 68 and 75 percent of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan.[30]
The matter is somewhat confused by the local use of the term "bride kidnap" to reflect practices along a continuum, from forcible abduction and rape (and then, almost unavoidably, marriage), to something akin to an elopement arranged between the two young people, to which both sets of parents have to consent after the fact.
Although the practice is illegal in Kyrgyzstan, bride kidnappers are rarely prosecuted. This reluctance to enforce the code is in part caused by the pluralistic legal system in Kyrgyszstan where many villages are de facto ruled by councils of elders and aqsaqal courts following customary law, away from the eyes of the state legal system.[31]Aqsaqal courts, tasked with adjudicating family law, property and torts, often fail to take bride kidnapping seriously. In many cases, aqsaqal members are invited to the kidnapped bride's wedding and encourages the family of the bride to accept the marriage.[32]


In Kazakhstan, bride kidnapping (alyp qashu) is divided into non-consensual and consensual abductions, kelisimsiz alyp qashu ("to take and run without agreement") andkelissimmen alyp qashu ("to take and run with agreement"), respectively.[33] Though some kidnappers are motivated by the wish to avoid a bride price or the expense of hosting wedding celebrations or a feast to celebrate the girl leaving home, other would-be husbands fear the woman's refusal, or that the woman will be kidnapped by another suitor first.[34] Generally, in nonconsensual kidnappings, the abductor uses either deception (such as offering a ride home) or force (such as grabbing the woman, or using a sack to restrain her) to coerce the woman to come with him.[35] Once at the man's house, one of his female relatives offers the woman a kerchief (oramal) that signals the bride's consent to the marriage. Though in consensual kidnappings, the woman may agree with little hesitation to wear the kerchief, in non-consensual abductions, the woman may resist the kerchief for days.[36] Next, the abductor's family generally asks the "bride" to write a letter to her family, explaining that she had been taken of her own free will. As with the kerchief, the woman may resist this step adamantly.[37] Subsequently, the "groom" and his family generally issues an official apology to the bride's family, including a letter and a delegation from the groom's household. At this time, the groom's family may present a small sum to replace the bride-price. Though some apology delegations are met cordially, others are greeted with anger and violence.[38] Following the apology delegation, the bride's family may send a delegation of "pursuers" (qughysnshy) either to retrieve the bride or to verify her condition and honor the marriage.[39]


Map of Uzbekistan. Karakalpakstan in red.
In Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region in Uzbekistan, nearly one fifth of all marriages are conducted by bride kidnapping.[40] Activist groups in the region tie an increase in kidnappings to economic instability. Whereas weddings can be prohibitively expensive, kidnappings avoid both the cost of the ceremony and any bride price.[41] Other scholars report that less desirable males with inferior educations or drug or alcohol problems are more likely to kidnap their brides.[42] In Karakalpakstan, the bride kidnapping sometimes originates out of a dating relationship and, at other times, happens as an abduction by multiple people.[43]

[edit]The Caucasus

Ethno-linguistic groups in the Caucasus region

A raid by Kurds
Bride kidnapping is an increasing trend in the countries and regions of the Caucasus, both in Georgia, and Azerbaijan inthe South[44] and in DagestanChechnya and Ingushetia in the North.[45] The traditions in the Caucasus, though appearing in distinct cultures, may have emerged during Ottoman rule.[45] In the Caucasian versions of bride-kidnapping, the kidnap victim's family may play a role in attempting to convince the woman to stay with her abductor after the kidnapping, because of the shame inherent in the presumed consummation of the marriage.[46]


In Azerbaijan, both marriage by capture (qız qaçırmaq) and elopement (qoşulub qaçmaq) are relatively common practices.[47] In the Azeri kidnap custom, a young woman is taken to the home of the abductor's parents through either deceit or force. There, she may be raped. Regardless of whether a rape occurs or not, the woman is generally regarded as impure by her relatives, and is therefore forced to marry her abductor.[48]Despite a 2005 Azeri law that criminalized bride kidnapping, the practice places women in extremely vulnerable social circumstances, in a country where spousal abuse is rampant and recourse to law enforcement for domestic matters is impossible.[49] In Azerbaijan, women abducted by bride kidnapping sometimes become slaves of the family who kidnap them.[50]

[edit]Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia

The Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia regions in the Northern Caucasus (in Russia) have also witnessed an increase in bride kidnappings since the fall of the Soviet Union.[51] As in other countries, kidnappers sometimes seize acquaintances to be brides and other times abduct strangers.[52] The social stigma of spending a night in a male's house can be a sufficient motivation to force a young woman to marry her captor.[53] Under Russian law, though a kidnapper who refuses to release his bride could be sentenced to eight to ten years, a kidnapper will not be prosecuted if he releases the victim or marries her with her consent.[54] Bride captors in Chechnya are liable, in theory, to receive also a fine of up to 1 million rubles.[55]As in the other regions, authorities often fail to respond to the kidnappings.[56] In Chechnya, the police failure to respond to bridal kidnappings is compounded by a prevalence of abductions in the region.[57] Several such kidnappings have been captured on video.[58]
Researchers and non-profit organizations describe a rise in bride kidnappings in the North Caucasus in the latter half of the 20th century.[53] In Chechnya, women's rights organizations tie the increase in kidnappings to a deterioration of women's rights under the rule of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.[53]


In Georgia, bride kidnapping occurs throughout the country, but primarily in ethnic minority communities, such as Samtskhe-Javakheti.[59] Although the extent of the problem is not known, non-governmental activists estimate that hundreds of women are kidnapped and forced to marry each year.[60] In a typical Georgian model of bride kidnapping, the abductor, often accompanied by friends, accosts the intended bride, and coerces her through deception or force to enter a car. Once in the car, the victim may be taken to a remote area or the captor's home.[61] These kidnappings sometimes include rape, and may result in strong stigma to the female victim, who is assumed to have engaged in sexual relations with her captor.[62] Women who have been victims of bride kidnapping are often regarded with shame; the victim's relatives may view it as a disgrace if the woman returns home after a kidnapping.[63] In other cases, the kidnapping is a consensual elopment.[64] Human Rights Watch reports that prosecutors often refuse to bring charges against the kidnappers, urging the kidnap victim to reconcile with her aggressor.[65] Enforcing the appropriate laws in this regard may also be a problem because the kidnapping cases often go unreported as a result of intimidation of victims and their families.[66]


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