Do you know that UN Women launched its annual 16-days of activism against gender-based violence campaign? It is an international campaign that kicks off on November 25 and lasts for 16 days. I remember while staying in the US, in 2014 we implemented a project to educate young women and men on the issue of bride-kidnapping. Today, bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan can have various forms, for example, as a consensual ” forced” or non-consensual marriage.
Bride kidnapping is a social and public health issue in Kyrgyzstan. It is still real in the 21st century. Despite all measures, violence is skyrocketing throughout the world. Even if abused women are silent about being abused, statistics do not lie. Yes, statistics may not be accurate because of the women who do not report, who are afraid to report, or because they do not have any means to report. Some cases of reported violence may not even be taken seriously because it is considered normal between spouses.
In 2014, my project “No More Bride-Kidnapping!” would not be successful without Open Society Foundations, instructors, students, and trainers from Open Line, a local nonprofit organization that is still actively helping women in need in Kyrgyzstan. This is a tragedy of our society. Yes, there are some happy end cases, but how many? In the past, I mistakenly believed that bride-kidnapping was our tradition, but it is not. Our tradition could be arranged marriages, but not bride-kidnapping. There are so many people who still believe that bride-kidnapping is a Kyrgyz tradition for marriages.
Education helps prevent the issue. Hopefully, that project had an impact on some of those young men and women and educated them on the negative consequences of bride-kidnapping.
What do survey statistics suggest us about bride-kidnapping consequences?
- Increased school drop-out rates
- Increased cases of domestic violence
- Increased rates of depression and suicidal behavior
- Decreased quality of life among young women
- And many more
When I had a skype conversation with Munara Beknazarova, a director of Open Line nonprofit, she said that abused women who lived in the capital of Kyrgyzstan could get respective support because many nonprofits are located there. Sadly enough, 66% of the population lives in rural areas because Kyrgyzstan is a 95% mountainous country, where there is limited access to protection services. Many cases of violence happen in rural areas. There is not much help for women or anyone who want to escape from violence.
Hopefully, rural areas of Kyrgyzstan will have more government and nonprofit organizations that will provide social and emergency support for people affected by violence. Thank you to Open Society Foundations, UN Women, Naryn Pedagogical College, and Open Line foundation for helping me implement my initiative, but most importantly for their work that is a contributing factor in creating a better society.