Bride kidnapping; Tradition or Crime?

According to Girls Not Bride, about 15 million girls a year are victims of child marriage before the age of 18. More surprising is the fact ...

Bride kidnapping

According to Girls Not Bride, about 15 million girls a year are victims of child marriage before the age of 18. More surprising is the fact that in Kyrgyzstan, about one young girl is abducted every 40 minutes, and one in five young girls is abducted for marriage.

‘Ala-Kachuu’ is the name of a romantic tradition in Central Asia dating back to the nomadic period. This old custom is becoming more and more common.



The custom of kidnapping the bride; Ala-Kachuu

‘Ala-Kachuu’ is a Kyrgyz word and translates as ‘grab and run’. While this may seem like a popular recreational sport, it is actually a widespread practice to kidnap girls and tie their knots.

‘Ala-Kachuu’ is a form of bride abduction that is largely non-consensual and often involves violent torture and rape of women. The custom dates back to a romantic tradition in Central Asia, where a potential groom ‘kidnaps’ a potential bride from the bride’s home so that he can marry her.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, in many cases, the groom rapes his abducted bride to prevent her from returning to her family.

‘Ala-Kachuu’ was initially thought to be the only custom among the Uyghurs. Finally, it is known that there is a trend of kidnapping brides across Central Asia. Researchers at the US-based Duke University say the abductions also occur in rural areas of the Central Asian country, such as Armenia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, and South Africa.

According to a study published in the Journal of Demography, babies born to abducted brides weigh 80 to 190 grams less than arrange weddings. It was further stated that low birth weights were associated with disease risk, lower education rates, and earnings.

It is not clear why these children are small, but the trauma caused by forced marriages is probably due to their mother's psychological distress, said Charles Baker, a professor of economics who co-authored the study.

Where is the law?

In 1994, Kyrgyzstan's criminal code outlawed the abduction of Ala-Kachuu. President Almazbek Atambayev passed a law on 25th January in  2013. By amending Article 154 and Article 155 of the Kyrgyz Criminal Code, the maximum sentence for abducting a bride is seven years, and where the bride is a minor it increases to 10 years.

In the first six months of 2019, there were 118 criminal cases of bride abduction across the country. UNICEF estimates that many more cases have occurred, but these incidents are often not reported. According to the latest statistics, 1 in 11 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in Kyrgyzstan is married.

Lawyers think this is not a tradition; Rather a crime. Yet Kyrgyz citizens are still practicing it in the name of tradition.

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