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Stolen Brides, Stolen Lives

Kyrgyz bride kidnapping tradition leads to tragedies

The film Stolen Brides, Stolen Lives is a follow-up to the 2013 RT Documentary, which examined the phenomenon of girl abduction in Kyrgyzstan. The Ala kachuu, or “grab and run” custom has young men abducting girls and marrying them against their will. The traditional lifestyle in Kyrgyzstan makes the fight for equality and human rights for girls more complicated. Until recently, the penalty for kidnapping was less than for stealing cattle. However, human rights advocates managed to establish a ten-year sentence for kidnappers.

Still, even when formal justice is served, the girls have to endure a lot of humiliation with their families, their social circle and even the authorities. Commonly the police don’t take reports of Ala kachuu seriously; they laugh and joke about it. They know their negligence will not be punished. Religious elders don’t condone the kidnapping. However, a mullah often makes a house call and weds the couple without asking the girl’s consent.

According to the Kyrgyz Ministry of the Interior, domestic violence has increased 62% during the COVID lockdown. The Ministry cites over 8,000 cases a year. But human rights advocates claim the numbers are significantly higher — tens of thousands of cases. The best way to reduce these numbers is to educate both young men and women about their rights and that everyone is equal before the law.