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For many Kyrgyz women, marriage means getting kidnapped “Borat-style.”
Many who were kidnapped claim they went on to live a perfectly happy life. “Other women, typically older women, are the ones trying to convince the girls to do it and encouraging the practice to flourish," Ryskulova said. "They will say, 'see, I also got married this way and I'm happy.'"
Anara Niyazova, head of the law department at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavonic University has a suggestion for halting the practice: stop romanticizing bride kidnapping, and don't infer that the girls were asking for it.
“Our culture has a stereotype that girls should behave in ways that's imposed by society. That she provoked the kidnapping herself,” she said.
As a result women here rarely start criminal proceedings, even though bride kidnapping has been outlawed since 1994. Moreover, rural youth don't see other marriage strategies. "Village men hardly ever interact with women," Niyazova said. "They sit in a sheep market and when they see somebody they like, they will just take them. [Kidnapping] is caused by an absence of dating skills.”
Educated Kyrgyz women, such as Nuraiym Orozobekova, agree that dating methods need to be taught and women need to push back. She became an anti-kidnapping advocate after her mother told her a family friend's son was planning to kidnap her.
"I didn't want to get married this way. I decided to stop this criminal activity," she said. The challenge, Orozobekova said, is that many people in Kyrgyzstan — male and female — still don't see a huge value in women. "It used to be that if you stole a domestic animal they would cut off your finger," she said. "But stealing a woman wasn't prohibited."
Orozobekova has successfully avoided being abducted. She is still single, but now that she is 27, she is most probably too old to be a prime target for kidnapping.
"If a boy likes me, he will have to use another method. If he prefers kidnapping, it just means he isn't confident enough to get a girl another way," she said.
"I'm not a sheep. I'd like to choose, too."
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