GLOBAL CALL: KYRGYZSTAN AND THE KIDNAPPED BRIDES
Asia. Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan.
We all know countries where the matrimonial process is particularly strange, the traditions associated with that can be, at least, surprising, etc. From arranged marriages, polygamy and even the allowance to marry animals or objects are the kinds of topics that the majority of the world is not used too, but what is happening in Kyrgyz society is much more peculiar and for me, serious.
Surrounded by a bunch of countries ended in “Ystan” and China, this ancestral country always was the scenario for important cultural and social experiences, many of them, with reflex in the actual Kyrgyz lifestyle. During the Soviet period of its history, the country faced a modernization of costumes and minds. The regime tried to abolish the significant inequality between sexes, providing the same level of education to girls and boys. You are probably asking the relation between this detail and the title of this article…fair enough! Many historians are pointing this period as the moment when the ancestral traditional of kidnapping brides started to boom. Against the arranged weddings that the parents managed for them, many daughters were kidnapped by the lovers to start a new family away from the groom they never love. Do you feel the Hollywood vibe in here? The passion. The drama. The scape history. Well… if you are enjoying, let me cut your mood: things changed there.
The beauty of the thing is lost and now, this practice is much more violent and serious. In small villages, almost all the marriages resulted from kidnaps where women are violently taken from their families in order to marry, sometimes, with an unknown man. Supported by families and friends, the groom prepares a strategy to take the selected girl in some cases, through the girl’s family and friends. Single or not, known or not, rich or poor, there are no criteria to decide who the man wants to marry. If he is feeling attracted by that girl, that is the one he will marry.
After the violent act, the girl in panic arrives at the groom’s house where the mother and other female relatives of the man try to put to the bride scarf. They also made the girl to relax and to accept the marriage that was planned months ago without her knowledge. Hours or days after – depending on how the girl is reacting – they start the celebrations. Many sheep are killed, the music starts and the kidnapper’s family visit the victim’s house in order to inform them and to say sorry while offering gifts. Yes… it is very simple: “Hey! We kidnapped your daughter. It is ok, right? By the way, we have some meat to compensate for your loss!”. In the same day, the religious leaders visit the place where the now-bride is at in order to consummate the marriage. In the morning after the sheet of the couple is exposed outside of the house for everyone to see the “proof of virginity”. Days after, it is time to make the girl prove how good she is in the housekeeping tasks. In this country were people take tradition as a religion, police are usually prepared by the groom’s family to not stop the process according to the law. This is the basic process for this unusual wedding, but there are many situations that you must know:
It can be unbelievable but, for many girls, showing resistance and panic is a way to show purity and innocence and to make sure that no one feels that she was desperate to marry. This can happen when they love (or at least know) the groom. It also can happen if the girl was born in a family where this tradition is highly common. At the same time, many girls are not ready to assume a marriage because of their age, feelings or other natural aspects that made everyone reject a not desired marriage! For some people in the Kyrgyz society, the kidnapping is a clear humiliation and, after that, there is “no other choice” because the groom’s family will never let her alone. Something that appeared in my mind was why the girl’s family is not acting in order to rescue the girl. Well, I found two options: in several examples, the girl’s family is involved turning this into an arranged marriage or, if someone tries to save the bride, it can start many discussions inside the family because, for many people, tradition is the highest value to preserve. It is also important to refer that in this kind of Kyrgyz marriages, the rate of suicide and depressions are very high.
Nowadays, we can find traditions evolving bride kidnapping in several points of the globe. From Africa to South America, passing by Europe and the Caucasus many details can change. What is always common is the capture of the woman a man wants to marry. For many a sex crime, to others, a valid form of marriage… what we really need to take in a count is the freedom of the involved person because, in some regions, this phenomena is not violent and is totally approved by the bride and respective family.
In this Global Call, I bring you a challenge. Through the example of Kyrgyzstan, the country where tradition is stronger than religion or law, I would love you to reflect about the role of tradition in our lives. I believe that traditions from where we are from, are part of our identity so how can it shape our perception of the world? Can we use it as an excuse to justify something that someone is against? How can we bring the law/rights and traditional values together as a harmony? Do you think we should eliminate any kind of traditions? If yes, why and which type? In my point of view, such questions can help us to question “supreme reputation” of old traditions In our societies that are developing attending to the modern times and mindsets.
If we want a world of freedom and tolerance, let us reflect, share and discuss about important topics. Welcome to the Global Call. Take an action! Call the world for it.
By Ricardo Leitão