Against ala kachuu, the tradition of bride kidnapping

Thousands of women are taken every year and forced into marriage. Since 2013 the practice is punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment. For one lawmaker, we must teach that “this is not a tradition, but a crime.”


Bishkek (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of Kyrgyz women are abducted each year, taken off the street, and forced into marrying their attacker because of ala kachuu (grab and run), a traditional form of bride kidnapping that was criminalised in 2013, but is still practiced.

Aida Kasymalieva, Kyrgyzstan’s youngest female member of parliament, spoke about the problem in parliament. For her fellow MP, Ainuru Altybaeva, it is necessary to inform young people about this humiliating practice.

Ala Kachuu is part of the country’s customs, and includes cases where the bride is consenting to the wedding. However, victims are generally taken away against their will and driven away.

Forced to wear a white headscarf, they are held at their would-be grooms’ home where other women try to convince them to stay with their kidnappers.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) cites 2013 data from the NGO Women Support Centre, which said there were at least 11,800 cases of forced abduction of women and girls every year in Kyrgyzstan.

Reuters has reported that close to 12,000 girls and women are kidnapped every year and up to half of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan result from bride kidnapping with one-third of them non-consensual.

Since 2013, the practice is a crime punishable with up to ten years in prison. However, for Kasymalieva, the effect of the law is limited because of attitudes in society.

“Even if a girl found the courage to run away the night she was kidnapped . . . at the police station she might be told it was her fault.”

According to Altybaeva, her attempts to toughening the law have been met with resistance. When she addressed parliament on 9 October, she was criticised by other MPs who accused her of not being Kyrgyz, of not knowing her country’s traditions. “Bride kidnapping is a beautiful national tradition," some of her male colleagues said.

Nevertheless, many other colleagues supported the bill to outlaw the practice in 2011 and signed into law by the president in 2012.

“We also strengthened this law. Now, a witness or a family member can also report cases of bride kidnapping. Before, this was considered a private matter, and only the victim could report it. It is now considered a private-public matter.

For Altybaeva, it is necessary to inform people and educate them. “Thanks to a large information campaign with women’s groups and journalists, young men and women were informed about the new law.”

Young women now know “that if they were to be kidnapped, they had rights and they could report it. Many found out that this is not a tradition, but a crime.”

As a result, now the number of bride kidnapping cases has decreased significantly.

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