Project in Naryn, on prevention of bride-kidnapping initiated by Aigul Abdyldaeva, 2014 MSW Candidate from George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, an alumna of the international exchange program funded by the Open Society Foundations.
Young women between the ages of 16-20 years old experience a higher rate of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, which leads to increased school drop-out rates and instances of domestic violence. Kidnapped brides also have a higher risk of experiencing depression and suicidal ideation and behavior. These physical and mental abuses greatly decrease the quality of life for these women, which negatively affect their families and the Kyrgyz society in general. The trend of forced marriage in Kyrgyzstan is rapidly increasing (Women Support Center, 2012) and threatens the mental, physical, intellectual, social and economic well-being of young girls (Khatidja, 2012). Many factors, such as such as low levels of literacy, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, depression, suicidal ideation and behavior, are associated with forced marriages on the global (Chantler, 2012) and the national level (Open Line, 2010).
In 2010, Open Line PF interviewed 268 women of different ages from all six regions of the Kyrgyz Republic to better understand the nature of bride kidnapping. Almost 50% of the kidnapped women reported that their life was worse after being kidnapped because of domestic violence and psychological depression. For example, 15.7% were already divorced and single mothers, 6.5% are abused by their husbands, and 7.9% said they were just not happy, and 16% of kidnapped women said that their lives were completely ruined due to bride-kidnapping as they could not finish school or had loved another man. Another 38% did not reply due to fears of being punished by their husbands. Of 268 interviewed, 95% were bride-kidnapped unexpectedly through force. According to the Open Line survey report (2010) “74.2% of women surveyed reported that [kidnapped brides] had exerted psychological pressure in one form or another: persuasion not to leave the house, threats and manipulation, violence and pressure. 19.7% of respondents recalled the threats from relatives or friends. 62 women (23%) confessed that they were raped or physically threatened. One respondent said that when she was grounded, she was very indignant and furious ready to go to police and file the case. Later, she was grabbed by two best men and raped by the kidnapper. She had no choice but accept her new family. The issue of bride-kidnapping is a social work issue that has many negative consequences for Kyrgyz society. Due to the practice of forced marriages in the form of bride-kidnapping, a divorce rate, single parent families, stepparent families, mental health conditions, a suicide rate, and many other social and public health issues are at stake. Therefore, it is crucial to address the issue of bride-kidnapping by empowering men and women while they are young.
What organizations or individuals are working on the issue of bride-kidnapping?
I have interviewed two representatives working in this area:
Name: Munara Beknazarova
Job title: Director
Agency’s local website:http://openline.kg/
I had a skype conversation with the Director of Open Line organization, Munara Beknazarova. Based on our conversation, the Open Line has produced six public service announcements and posted 21 informational videos that have been viewed by 81,327 people on YouTube and Facebook. Moreover, they have created a vast network of partnerships with other local organizations with the purpose of raising awareness through their stakeholders and partners. For example, there are many resources in Bishkek for affected women, for example (1) Hot line; (2) Access to professional advocates and some other services. But most of the resources are available and used by women who are in Bishkek as in many cases many girls from rural areas do not have money to come to the capital to seek the support or get information. Currently, 20 NGOs in Kyrgyzstan now distribute informational materials provided by Open Line on the issue of bride-kidnapping (M. Beknazarova, personal communication, June 11, 2013).
Name: Gerald Gunther
Job title: UN Women National Gender Specialist in Kyrgyzstan
Global website: www.unwomen.org
Agency's local website: http://unwomen-eeca.org/ru/strani_sng/kirgizstan/
Here is the abstract of what Mr. Gunther said: “In rural areas in particular lack of information about possibilities and self-determined life-outcomes in a general environment of economic constraint and failure, getting married is seen as a rite of passage into womanhood and relative economic and social stability. Traditional patterns of interaction between youth and the related limitations to live together when not married also do not build the skills of youths to determine suitability for partnership and marriage. Henceforth, marrying a key who is seemingly not any better or worth than any other in the village, especially when parents are not likely to intervene in a forced abduction is a fate a girl cannot escape, especially as it is common practice in her community.
All this calls for empowerment and education, state-building (in the absence of effective law enforcement and an inactive justice system) and advocacy to change stereotypes of normalcy and tradition in criminal acts that were not widespread even a generation ago. Once women are empowered, which includes them having skills to be economically independent and economic opportunity to use these skills, once they more often mentally resist abduction at the cost of scandal triggering a national debate on the immorality of abduction, this supported by victim self-help networks and advocacy campaigns, triggering enforcement of laws also as a reaction to moral sanction of these practices by the international community that may make some aid conditional on the state implementing its human rights duties and related functions, the tide can be turned. In the meantime it is left to civil society to provide basic counseling and support services to the affected women given the low quality of suitable state services in this area to victims and survivors. But a lasting change will only come when education at home and institutionally will build pride and an understanding of rights in girls and boys.»
Partners of the project of the NGO “Booruker”, Open Society Foundations, Naryn State University, in particular, Naryn Pedagogical College, UN Women and the Foundation “Open Line.”