Kyrghyzstan is a wild and beautiful central Asian nation, where families and clans have enormous influence on society at large, but despite adopting many aspects of the modern world, kidnapping minors for marriage remains a strong tradition. 10% of women are married before they are 18 and one in five underage marriages are the result of kidnapping, despite it being outlawed in 2013.
“Ala kachuu, or “taking and running away” is a big problem in Kyrghyzstan. Many claim it is a tradition, but there’s nothing traditional in taking a young girl by force against her consent. It’s the theft of a human being. Men never think about domestic violence or kidnapping. On the contrary, they agitate for polygamy laws, and claim women don’t have problems, and should stay at home,” says the country’s youngest member of parliament, Aida Kasymalieva.
It was only last November that the religious marriage of minors was outlawed by the few female members of parliament, and while some Imams have fallen into line, many have not.
A third of all marriages in this majority Muslim former Soviet republic result from the forced abduction of women, most by much older men.