Bride-kidnapping is a crime in Kyrgyzstan, but it goes unpunished in practice. It causes women physical and psychological harm.
Many law enforcement and other government officials view kidnapping for forced marriage as a useful tradition and not a serious crime. Yet as this chapter illustrates, the kidnapping itself is an act of physical assault, often perpetrated by groups, and frequently involves rape. Kidnappers, including the intended grooms female relatives, isolate the woman to prevent her from escaping. Overwhelming psychological pressure is brought to bearchiefly by the kidnappers female relatives but also by the womans natal familyto coerce her to submit to the marriage and remain with her abductor. The governments failure to respond adequately to stop abduction for forced marriage constitutes a breach of its obligations under various international human rights instruments.
In this report, the terms abduction, kidnapping, or bride-kidnapping are used to refer to the act of taking a woman or girl against her will through deception or force and using physical or psychological coercion to force her to marry one of her abductors. The terms kidnapping, bride-kidnapping, or abduction as used in this report indicate that the abduction is non-consensualthat is, that the woman who is kidnapped was not part of the planning of the kidnapping and had not given her consent to the kidnapping or the subsequent marriage free of psychological or physical coercion. We do not, therefore, apply such terminology in this report to cases of consensual kidnapping, such as so-called mock kidnappings in which the woman has agreed in advance to participate in imitating an abduction, or elopements carried out by the man and woman jointly, with the womans prior and explicit consent.326
Bride-kidnapping takes place for the most part within the ethnic Kyrgyz community in the country, which comprises the majority of the population.327 Kidnappings take place in all parts of Kyrgyzstanin major cities, in rural communities and mountain villages, in the south and in the north. The women who are taken are typically young, under the age of 25, and are sometimes minors.
There is substantial debate in Kyrgyzstan regarding whether bride-kidnapping is a tradition. Government officials and some aksakals are among the proponents of the view that abduction is a traditional practice; many experts on the topic say it is not. NGO leaders and sociologists who have carefully examined marriage practices common during the countrys history argue that arranged marriage is in fact the tradition in Kyrgyzstan and that, historically, abduction was rare.328 They state that since independence, however, it has become increasingly common.329 NGO leaders emphasize that not only is abduction not a tradition, it is a crime.
Perhaps the best-known work related to the problem of bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan was conducted by American sociologist Russell Kleinbach of Philadephia University, and Kyrgyz sociologists Mehrigiul Ablezova and Medina Aitieva from the American University-Central Asia in Bishkek. Conducted in 2004, the study found that the most popular reason offered for bride-kidnapping was that people regarded it as a good tradition.330 According to Lori Handrahan, who conducted another study on men who participate in bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, the increase in incidents of bride-kidnapping since the Soviet period can be explained by mens view of it as a positive expression of Kyrgyz identity.331
Several government officials who spoke to Human Rights Watch contend that bride-kidnapping is a tradition and that it is almost always consensual. With some exceptions, officials failed to acknowledge that abduction of women for forced marriage is a serious crime and that the state has an obligation to punish the perpetrators and prevent future incidents. Officials from the Office of the Ombudsman, the government agency responsible for advocating for the rights of Kyrgyzstans citizens, defended the practice of bride-kidnapping, contending that it is a tradition, and that women therefore ultimately consent to it. [Bride-kidnapping] is a tradition, thats why weve received no appeals. If it were by force, then maybe [people would complain] .332 A senior police officer was among people we interviewed who presented kidnapping as a useful institution that facilitates marriage, commenting, Of course there is kidnapping, without this marriage doesnt happen.333
A government human rights official explained the role that he says abduction plays in ensuring that women get married: I am a Kyrgyz man who grew up here and on the one hand I see it as a violation of the woman who then cant marry the man she loves, but also many women are very shy, their behavior is very different, especially in the villages. We advise women not to associate with men. Our girls dont know how to deal with men. When they grow up, they dont know what to do. Some women are grateful [to be kidnapped], otherwise they say they would never have gotten married. If there was not this tradition, then they would never get married and have children, so I also look at it from that angle. I dont support bride abduction myself.334
A consequence of regarding bride-kidnapping a tradition is that it becomes part of the unwritten social charter and is deemed above criticism. President Bakievs advisor on human rights policy talking about bride-kidnapping said, Most problems are resolved by the law of the people. So people regard the law of the people as higher than the written law.335
The debate over whether bride-kidnapping is a tradition has significant ramifications for the rights of women. Although the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) clearly calls for governments to take action to eliminate discrimination rooted in customs and traditions, some government officials who embrace kidnpapping and assume it to be a tradition or voluntary may not consider it a discriminatory practice, and may not be motivated to work to end it.
Abductions for Forced Marriage on the Rise
There are no official statistics for the number of kidnappings that take place each year or for the percentage of marriages that have begun with kidnapping, but sociologists, NGO leaders, and government officials expert in this area agree that the phenomenon is on the rise.
Experts offer various estimates of bride-kidnapping rates in Kyrgyzstan. Some put the figure at about 30 percent of all marriages and others say that in some areas up to 80 percent of marriages take place through kidnapping. The experts agree that the practice is pervasive.336 With some exceptions, government officials, on the other hand, deny that non-consensual bride-kidnapping is pervasive.
The 2004 American University-Central Asia study asserts that abductions for forced marriage have been on the rise not just since Kyrgyzstan attained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, but have been steadily increasing during the past 40 to 50 years.337 The scholars say that prior to the Soviet period, abductions for marriage were rare.338 Their study differentiates between consensual and non-consensual kidnappings. It points out that both consensual kidnappings and non-consensual kidnappings have been increasing, and demonstrates the increase in non-consensual kidnappings with a shocking statistic from one village (exact location not disclosed): 63 percent of married women and girls ages 16 to 25 had been kidnapped without their consent, compared to 47 percent of married women ages 36 to 56, and only 27 percent of married women aged 76 or older. 339 Looking at all age groups, the study found that 80 percent of Kyrgyz marriages in the village were the result of kidnapping. The authors classified 57 percent of these as non-consensual,340 and concluded that, overall 35-45 per cent of married ethnic Kyrgyz women are married against their will as a result of bride-kidnapping341 (the study refers only to ethnic Kyrgyz women and girls, as abductions for forced marriage are rare among other ethnic groups in Kyrgyzstan).
Several NGO leaders say that in fact in some areas the percentage of marriages that take place through kidnapping is even higher than what was found in the study by Kleinbach, Ablezova, and Aitieva. One long-time researcher of this phenomenon, who founded and runs an NGO to help victims of abduction for forced marriage, said, We did research on how many women married by agreement and how many were kidnapped. I was surprised that some 40 percent of women in the city were kidnapped and in villages it was more like 60 percent, and that in some villages the percentage of women kidnapped was more than 80 percent. 342
All of the studies noted above consistently found bride-kidnapping to be more common in villages than in major cities, such as Bishkek and Osh, but abductions do take place in the cities as well, as evidenced by the experience of one young woman who spoke to Human Rights Watch. Shoira S. was kidnapped in Bishkek. She said, People think that this doesnt happen in the city, but it does . Three years ago, in 2002, when I was 18 years old I was kidnapped. This is very widespread. Even in the city.343
Several women interviewed by Human Rights Watch about their own experiences of being kidnapped reported that they were under the age of 18 when they were abducted for forced marriage. The Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad reported a case of kidnapping of a 12-year-old girl in that province in 1999. Another report about the abduction of girls for forced marriage stated that six girls, some of whom were legal minors, had been kidnapped in the town of Kerben, in the Aksy district of Jalal Abad province, during a one-week period in November 2005.344
Kidnappings of women are carried out in several different ways, and each womans experience of a kidnapping is unique, but there are some elements that are common to most abductions for forced marriage. A young woman, below the age of 25, is typically taken through force or deception by a group of men, including the intended groom. Sometimes the men are people she has met prior to the incident; sometimes they are complete strangers. The men are usually drunk; she is usually alone. She is taken to the home of her principal abductor, the intended groom, and is put in a room and surrounded by his female relatives. These women use physical force and a variety of forms of psychological coercion to compel her to agree to the marriage and submit to having the marriage scarf placed on her headthe sign that she consents to marry her abductor.345 If the kidnapped woman resists, this process can last for hours or days. She is often raped by her abductor, sometimes prior to her coerced consent to the marriage as a means of pressuring her to stay, and other times after a wedding ceremony has been conducted. The kidnapped woman or girls relatives are sometimes summoned, but not always, and typically join in attempting to convince her to stay (although in some cases parents will insist on or facilitate their daughters escape from their kidnappers). Marriages that take place following kidnappings are rarely registered with the state; instead a Muslim cleric typically conducts a ceremony and/or a wedding feast is held.
This is explored in detail below, in the section Anatomy of an Abduction.
Studies on bride-kidnapping cite a variety of factors that motivate some men to carry out abductions of women and girls. The following section of this chapter describes several of these. It is not an exhaustive treatment, as abuses against women and the role of the statenot the motivations of abductors and their accomplicesare the primary subjects of this report. Moreover, inquiry into the explanations for mens abuse of women should not be misconstrued as justifying the actions that abductors take against women in violation of womens rights.
Men pressured to marry and to kidnap
To be married is regarded as the norm in Kyrgyzstan. A mans parents and close relatives are deeply interested in seeing him married. As discussed elsewhere in this report, a mans mother in particular stands to benefit from his marriage, as the new bride is expected to assist her and in many cases take over the household duties.346
Sociologist Medina Aitieva, who co-authored the American University-Central Asia study on abduction for forced marriage, points out that parents own behavior, how they met and married, and pressure from family members can leave a lasting impression on male children and their ideas about marriage. As with the known phenomenon of generational repetition of domestic violence, many men are raised by mothers who were victims of kidnapping and fathers who committed kidnapping, and receive signals from their family and community that kidnapping is a normal and acceptable behavior. Aitieva said, Theres a lot of pressure put on men by their families to marry . Parents exert a lot of control over their children and how they form families.347
Many families actively participate in planning and carrying out a kidnapping (indeed, in many cases the mans parents and close relatives are not only active and willing accomplices but its instigators): they may select or help select the woman who will be targeted, they invite female relatives to the home to put pressure on the woman when she is brought there, and they organize a huge wedding feast, which adds to the womans sense that marriage to her abductor is a fait accompli. One woman who was kidnapped by a stranger talked about the mans parents having pressured him to kidnap her, saying, He also was forced to marry me 348
At stake for the men is not only the approval of their families, but society as well. To be married is part of being a successful man. Fear of being stigmatized as an unsuccessful man can influence a mans decision to get a bride through kidnapping. A mans concern about his own social status and reputation also influences the way a kidnapping is carried out, including the mans willingness to use force to bring about a successful outcome. As Turganbubu Orunbaeva, the head of Bakubat NGO in Naryn, points out, Sometimes a girl manages to leave and the man is no longer considered a man.349 Nargiza N., who was kidnapped by a classmate and a group of his friends, described the conversation the men had in the car, I was kidnapped . I said I didnt agree to this, he became rude. He told his friends to stop the car because I didnt agree [to the abduction], but they refused, they said, We got her for you and now be quiet.350
Some activists have suggested that kidnapping is economically motivated. They say that men carry out kidnappings in order to avoid paying a bride price, or kalym, to the womans family. One NGO leader suggested that if the typical bride price were reduced, that might help to prevent kidnappings.351 However, the available data shows that concern over the kalym ranks low among motivations for bride-kidnapping. The Kleinbach-Ablezova-Aitieva study, for instance, shows that only 3 percent of respondents said this was a factor in their decision to kidnap a woman for forced marriage.352
Prejudice against the physically or mentally disabled is rampant in Kyrgyzstan and often goes unquestioned.353 Mental illness also carries a great deal of stigma in Kyrgyz society. As a result, a man who is disabled or ill faces greater challenges in finding a spouse or convincing a womans parents to agree to allow him to marry their daughter. Men who are seen as socially tainted, such as men with criminal records, are similarly viewed as undesirable matches by many women and their families. Men who face such prejudice or social stigma, and their relatives, may opt to kidnap a woman and deceive her about the man in order to coerce her consent to the marriage, rather than pursue her through consensual means.
Aisulu A., who was kidnapped and raped by a stranger, said she was particularly anxious not to stay with him when she learned he had a criminal record. I wanted to leave, she said, I heard my husband had been in jail for eight years and I understood that it was not a peaceful house.354
An activist in the south recalled the case of a woman kidnapped at the age of 25, widely regarded in Kyrgyzstan as the upper limit for marriageable age for women. The activist said, She didnt want to stay, but his relatives told her she should stay because she was already old and no one [else] would take her. But the man was an invalid without legs.355
Elmira E. was kidnapped at the age of 17 and beaten for years by her husband. She said, The relatives convinced me to stay by saying, Hes good . I eventually learned that my husband had been diagnosed a schizophrenic. When I found this out was when I decided that I must leave him.356
Shoira S., kidnapped at the age of 18, also said that her abductors family misrepresented him to her to convince her to agree to the marriage. She said, They hid things from me. He was not a full man, in both physical and mental terms.357 The mans family apparently plotted to kidnap her in order to compel her to join the family and in order to hide that their son was impotent; she also said she suspects he was mentally ill. She recalled:
Kidnapping as a violent expression of male power
Abduction of a woman is a violent expression of mens dominant position in Kyrgyz society. Some men view themselves as entitled to the women they have selected to marry, regardless of the womens wishes. Lori Handrahan asserts that, for men, kidnapping is an act of violence against, and dominance of, women and an act that defines cultural identity and manhood. Handrahan says kidnapping reinforces male hegemony, that is, dominance of women.359
Men who kidnap do not want to let go of their power or authority over women in order to court a woman and win her acceptance to marry. Bubusara Ryskulova explains, Men dont know how to relate to women, they think its easier to just kidnap.360 Other experts like Aleksandra Eliferenko say that kidnapping is in part the result of Kyrgyz mens objectification of women: Men dont give flowers, or follow other courtship rituals, they just take a woman like a thing and rape her and thats it.361
In many cases, kidnappings and the violence that accompanies them are carried out by men in retaliation against women who have rejected them romantically, women they fear would reject them, or women they may perceive as independent.362 NGO leaders who follow the problem of bride-kidnapping shared with Human Rights Watch anecdotal evidence of kidnapping as retaliation against women. Turganbubu Orunbaeva observed that in many abductions a man wants to show a woman who has rejected him who is boss.363 Maya Kaparova of the NGO Diamond said that in many cases the man is unwilling to risk rejection from a woman whom he fears may be too good for him. She said, Men want to avoid spending money on courtship, etc.; the man doesnt think she would choose him, so he doesnt want to take the risk, or he thinks even so maybe he can win her over in the end.364
Young women are the most frequent targets of kidnapping, and many of them are studying in school or university when they are kidnapped. After marriage, few are permitted to continue their education.365 In most cases, women will be confined to the home and to household duties and child-rearing in the years immediately following marriage. The kidnapping therefore serves to keep women from achieving any economic independence and rising up the social ladder. It shuts them out of the public sphere and consigns them to the home.
In practice, despite the law against kidnapping, there are no negative social or legal consequences for men who kidnap. They are not prosecuted for the crime. Among most elements of society no stigma attaches to abducting a woman for marriage or serving as an accomplice to such a crime. On the contrary, men who abduct women for forced marriage are congratulated by their family and peers and embraced by the broader society as successful men. Observers point out that, in the eyes of the general public, the abductor has done nothing wrong. Turganbubu Orunbaeva summed up this view: People dont understand that kidnapping is a crime.366
Those involved in an abduction are therefore often impervious to the effect of causing a woman pain and suffering. If a girl attempts to leave and cries, some people will say that it is fake crying or that the crying is just part of showing you are a proper girl, said Medina Aitieva.367 In Handrahans study, 42 percent of men interviewed said they felt afraid, ashamed or upset about kidnapping a woman, but when asked, If the woman seemed upset, did this bother you? 73 percent of the men said no.368 Orunbaeva charged, Men think often only about their own need to marry, not about the womans side and how she may suffer.369
Abductions are carried out by acquaintances or strangers
Those who carry out abductions of women and girls for forced marriage are sometimes her friends or acquaintances. As noted above, at times a rejected suitor or impatient boyfriend will be the organizer.
Cases documented by local NGOs and the stories of kidnapped women reveal that abductors are also sometimes complete strangers to the woman targeted. A study conducted in the Aksy district of Jalal Abad province found that 26 of the 35 women whose cases of kidnapping were documented were abducted by complete strangers.370 The 2004 Kleinbach-Ablezova-Aitieva study in a single Kyrgyz village found that 22 percent of the kidnapped women had been kidnapped by men they did not know.371 Lori Handrahan states that in her studys interviews with 176 men who had kidnapped a woman or participated in a kidnapping, she found that 35 percent of them were involved in the kidnapping of a woman they did not know. 372
Several women interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were abducted by strangers. Elmira E. said she was taken by force by a group of men at the age of 17: The men were all drunk. I didnt know a single one of them . I only saw my husband on the fourth day after being kidnapped. 373 Tursunai T., who was kidnapped at the age of 18, also said, The man who kidnapped me was a total stranger.374 Aida A., who was kidnapped at the age of 18 and was subsequently subjected to 25 years of abuse in her marriage, recalled, I didnt know my husband [before we married], he was a stranger and he kidnapped me. They forced me.375
Feruza F. said that although she had seen the men who took her prior to the kidnapping, she did not know the groom in advance. She described herself as being in shock when she realized the men intended her to marry a complete stranger. She said:
Aisulu A. was lured to a party by a female friend and then kidnapped by men who were strangers to her. She said, They put me in a car. I cried and tried to refuse. I didnt want to marry her [the friends] brother Id never met him before.377
Womens rights activists point to the fact that many abductors are complete strangers to the woman involved to support their argument that bride-kidnapping is not a tradition. They take strong exception to the implication that as a tradition, the practice is somehow benign. Bubusara Ryskulova said, Kidnapping is not a tradition, it is a crime. It is not just imitation of a crime, there are cases of strangers kidnapping women.378 Activist Aleksandra Eliferenko concurs. She told Human Rights Watch, Abduction is not just play-acting. It is still violence. If you write it off as tradition then you have to tolerate all types of abduction.379
Despite the wealth of evidence, law enforcement officers with whom Human Rights Watch spoke denied that strangers and distant acquaintances carry out kidnappings. One senior police officer told Human Rights Watch, I dont think [in some cases] they are complete strangers, in most cases hes at least seen her . Abductions do of course take place, but rarely of completely unknown women.380 As was typical of law enforcement officers Human Rights Watch spoke with, this police officer adopted the abductors point of view, emphasizing that the woman was already someone known to the man prior to the kidnapping (saying the man usually has seen her beforehand), but ignoring the question of whether or not the man was someone known to the woman, and also apparently not reflecting on whether the man may have been engaged in unacceptable behavior such as stalking the target prior to the kidnapping.
The fact remains that women are often captured by men hitherto completely unknown to them. As noted below, this has significant ramifications for the prospects for violence and aggravated trauma to the woman during the kidnapping.
Abductors may use physical force to capture a woman
In a number of cases men use physical force to literally grab a woman and capture her.381 In these cases the abductors are often strangers to the womanthey rely on force where acquaintances may rely on deception to get the woman into their car and take her away (see below).
Lori Handrahan makes the case that men participating in a kidnapping are more willing to use violence against women they do not know.382 As she and others have pointed out, kidnappings are almost always carried out by a group of men rather than by an individual abductor, and Handrahan characterizes the entire group of abductors as invested in the project. 383 As a result, peer pressure is put on men to carry out and go through with a kidnapping. Handrahan says of her reports findings, Kyrgyz men said their friends would ensure that they would not back out 384
One of the most significant consequences of pressure from those participating in the abduction is to encourage the principal abductor, the intended groom, to proceed with a kidnapping regardless of the pain and trauma it causes the woman and to counter her resistance with physical force.
One NGO expert pointed out that a number of accomplices are needed to carry out the kidnapping: The men go in groups because they need physical force, they need to get her into the car, and to get her into the house.385 Regardless of the purpose, the result of kidnappers working in concert is that the men are able to physically overwhelm women, prevent them from escaping, and may deal with women harshly when they attempt to resist. The violence used during the initial phase of the kidnapping can also serve to intimidate the woman and convince her that she has no possibility of escape and no choice but to submit to marrying her abductor.
Elmira E. described the force that was used when she was kidnapped by a group of men unknown to her when she was 17 years old: I was kidnapped from the sovkhoz [collective farm] by a group of men. I was working in the shed, I was the guard. There were five or six men who grabbed me and forced me into a car . I didnt have a choice, there were so many of them and I didnt have the strength to fight them off.386 Ainura A., who was kidnapped by her long-time boyfriend and his male accomplices, told Human Rights Watch, In the car, I tried to fight them off, but the men were strong.387 Another young woman who was the victim of an attempted kidnapping told a journalist that the men grabbed her and forced her into their car. She resisted, she said, and in the struggle her hand broke through the window. She said that when the men saw all the blood they decided to leave her there and fled the scene.388 Handrahans study cites several examples of men who said that they dragged the woman down the street, dragged her into the car, broke her hands, beat her, and covered her mouth and head.389
Elmira E. commented to Human Rights Watch that the group of men who kidnapped her were all drunk.390 Handrahans report also shows that the men involved are often drunk during the abduction. She found that 51 percent of men who participated in a kidnapping drank as part of the process.391 Handrahan posits that alcohol is part of the group activity and male confidence-building in preparation for abductions. Her report asserts a correlation between alcohol consumption and use of force, indicating it serves to rid men of inhibitions they may otherwise have about using violence against the woman and disregarding her pain and trauma.392
NGO activists point out that in some extreme cases the tactics men use to capture a woman result in her death. Several Jalal Abad womens rights defenders recalled the story of a young woman who was kidnapped in 1999 by a group of men who put her in the water tank on a truck, presumably in order to hide the abduction from police or witnesses. The men failed to open the hole for air on the water tank and the young woman had died by the time they arrived at the principal abductors home.393
Upon arrival at the principal abductors house, men appear to often physically overwhelm and compel the woman to go inside. Ainura A. said, We went to the house and his grandmother came out with the scarf; she tried to put the scarf on my head and the men forced me out of the car and put me in the house and locked me in. I cried and screamed. In the car, I tried to fight them off, but the men were strong.394 Elmira E. said, They dragged me to the house and I sat in the cornerthe traditional place where women are placed when they are kidnapped and brought to a home.395
Feruza F. described how her abductors physically overwhelmed her when she was kidnapped, at the age of 17, it was already late at night and we came to a house and they said, Come in for tea. I said No. They forced me out of the car and I sat in the house. They brought the scarf. I fought them off. They used physical force and violently put it on me . I was behind the curtain. They forced me behind it and they grabbed me by my wrists and ankles and forced me onto the floor. I cried, I was in shock. Later they forced me to write to my parents to say it was voluntary.396
In many cases, particularly when abductors are acquainted with the woman, they use deception in place of, or in addition to, physical force to carry out the kidnapping.
Deception is often employed in the first moments of an abduction, to capture the woman and take her to the home of the principal abductor, her intended groom. Men taking part in the kidnapping use false pretenses to lure the woman they have targeted into the car.
Feruza F. was lied to by men who said her parents had summoned her. She said, The men who took me were acquaintances of my father . They told me that my parents needed to see me and theyd take me to them, so I got in the car.397
Keres K. was kidnapped by an acquaintance. She said, I hadnt thought of marrying him. He kidnapped me. He told me to get in a car and go to a birthday celebration.398 Nargiza N. had a similar story to tell, I was kidnapped. A classmate invited me to a party, but it was a trick. He drove me home and then took another turn. When I asked why, he explained I was being kidnapped . [Later] they called my parents, friends and told them that he brought me, not that I was taken, so there would be social pressure if I spent the night, Id be considered ruined.399
Shoira S.s kidnapper, whose physical and mental problems are mentioned above, was a rejected suitor who pretended that he respected her wishes. She told Human Rights Watch:
Female friends of the woman targeted for kidnapping sometimes act as accomplices to the abductionthey lull the woman into a sense of safety so that she does not suspect she is being set up for a kidnapping. Aisulu A. said, In February 2005 a friend of mine invited me to her house for her sons birthday. I agreed to go. I had been fired from work and said I couldnt bring a gift, but she convinced me to come anyway. That night, they kidnapped me.401
Abductors use psychological coercion
The womans abductors and their accomplices use psychological coercion to force a woman to submit to marriage and prevent her from escaping her abductors home. Women members of the intended grooms family take the lead in applying this pressure, which has been described as extreme and severe and appears designed to elicit her so-called consent to the marriage.402 Young women raised, as many ethnic Kyrgyz are, to be agreeable, to respect their elders, and not to challenge those in authority are particularly vulnerable to the pressure put on them by their abductors and their accomplices.
One young woman described this pressure:
Elmira E. recalled, For two days I tried to escape. This is the tradition, that the older people in the family speak to you and try to force you, convince you that you should live there. The old women forced me to stay there. Women in the family, but also women in the village, the neighbors, the husbands relatives. I was 17 years old.404
Aisulu A. described the pressure put on her by the family that abducted her and the emotional power they exercised over her, even when conditions in the family deteriorated: They forced me to stay, using force and psychological pressure. They tried to convince me to stay, so I agreed and tried to make the best of it. A month later my father-in-law drank and tried to hit me . I went to leave and my mother-in-law cried, What will the neighbors say?! Please dont leave! She begged and I felt bad for her and I stayed.405
One government official recognized the power that psychological pressure can have to coerce a young woman to remain with their abductors, and noted that this contributes to the low rate of reporting on kidnappings.406
When a marriage is registered with the state, at the civil-registry office (ZAGS), a woman is asked whether she consents to the union. In many cases of bride-kidnapping, the groom and his family forego any official ceremony or registration with the state and instead mark the occasion with a wedding feast and party. NGO leaders contend that few marriages that result from kidnapping are officially registered with the state407 (indeed, registered marriages in general are reportedly less and less common in Kyrgyzstan).408
The mans family may also opt for a Muslim ceremony, an increasingly popular and common practice. Activist Turganbubu Orunbaeva told Human Rights Watch that according to Muslim practice, the local Muslim spiritual leader must officiate at a wedding.409 In these cases a moldo (local Muslim cleric) is invited to perform the wedding rites. While the moldo or mullah is expected to ask the woman to express her consent, in practice he often accepts gestures that are short of her giving her explicit consent to the marriage, or he interprets her silence as an expression of consent.410
Womens rights activists say that the moldo has the potential to be a very effective advocate for women in cases of abduction.411 Turganbubu Orunbaeva recalled one case in which a young woman refused to agree to the marriage and told the local Muslim cleric that she had been kidnapped. He refused to conduct the wedding rites and took her home.412 But women who have been kidnapped say it does not always go this way. One NGO activist said, The moldo gets money to consider the marriage legitimate and to act as if the girl has agreed.413
Rights defenders say the moldo should follow guidelines for ensuring that the marriage is consensual and that the authorities are informed in cases of kidnapping. If a couple doesnt go to ZAGS, then they have to go to the moldo. We need to tell the moldo that he needs to inform the head of the local administration about all cases of kidnapping, so [the head] can speak with the girl, said Zhanna Saralaeva from Jalal Abad.414
Muratali Uchkempirov, who works with a youth development NGO that aims to put an end to bride-kidnapping, charges that aksakals do not intervene on behalf of the kidnapped woman or advocate for her rights when they attend wedding ceremonies and feasts. He said, Aksakals say that a girl should give her consent. They are invited to weddings; they are asked to convince the [girls] parents to agree [to the match], they dont talk to the girl.415
The man (and his family if they have actively participated in planning the abduction), often selects a woman or girl from another town or village. As a result, women who contemplate escape are often prevented by their lack of familiarity with their surroundingsthey are disoriented and often literally do not know which way to run. In addition, the unfamiliar surroundings add to a womans feelings of isolation and despair and help to convince her that attempting to escape would be futile. In some cases, men who kidnap live in very isolated areas, where there are few places women can turn for help if they flee the house.
As mentioned above, Aisulu A. was tricked into a situation that allowed her to be abducted by strangers. She ended up staying for nine months with her principal abductor. She said later, I should have left immediately. I should have run off somewhere, but I was outside the city center and I didnt even know exactly where I was.416
Abductors also prevent opportunities for others to interrupt the womans isolation and potentially facilitate her escape. Typically abductors recognize that a womans family should be informed of the abduction and summoned, but sometimes abductors choose to first subject the woman to further isolation by refusing to allow her any contact with her natal family, or by lying about her ability to contact them. Women are thus deprived the opportunity to ask their close relatives for assistance to escape and experience feelings of abandonment and despair. For example, Elmira E.s kidnappers refused to contact her parents and tell them where she was. She recalled, I didnt know anyone in this village and I was two hours from my home . For two days I waited for my relatives, for my parents to come. My husbands parents didnt inform my parents that they had kidnapped me . My husbands relatives really seriously tricked me. They said that they didnt have money to contact my parents.417 Shoira S. said of her abductors, I begged them to give me the telephone so that I could call my parents but they wouldnt let me call. They feared that my parents would come and take me.418
The potential for the woman to be raped and subjected to other forms of physical harm and coercion are also heightened when abductors have ensured that no one close to the woman knows where she is. Aisulu A. said that after she was taken by a group of strangers, her principal abductor kept her isolated and raped her. She was allowed to contact her mother only a week later. At that point, her abductors gave her misinformation about her location to prevent her mother from coming. She said, A week later I called my mom and she said shed come [to see me] but they [the mans family] had given me the wrong address, so my mother never came. She wanted to come to see if I was OK.419
An NGO leader in southern Kyrgyzstan commented that it is typical also for abductors to invite the womans more distant relatives instead of her parents to give their approbation of the womans kidnapping and marriage. He said, We try to insist that [the womans] parents are invited, so they see their daughter with their own eyes. But a lot of times they [the abductors] just invite more distant relatives.420
In some cases, a womans family will object to the marriage when they are summoned following a kidnapping. In these cases, the parents can insist on removing the woman from the abductors home and calling off the marriage. In other cases, however, a womans parents approve the marriage through kidnapping and refuse to allow her to return to her natal home. In such instances, parents typically cite concerns that they or their daughter will be stigmatized by the community if she leaves. As discussed below, parents display particular concern over the loss of reputation that will occur if people assume their daughter is no longer a virgin following the abduction. Such concerns can take precedence over anxiety about the young womans safety or well-being.
Rape in abductions
Experts hold a variety of views on the frequency of rape in cases of abduction for forced marriage. While there are virtually no statistics on this, some NGO leaders believe that rape occurs in all or most cases of abduction, whereas one expert said it was not widespread.421 Several women victims of kidnapping interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that they were raped by their abductors.422
Rape causes women severe physical and emotional pain. It can result in physical injury and long-lasting psychological damage.423 Aisulu A. described being raped on her first night in the home of her abductor (a stranger), her wedding night: I didnt agree to have sex with him that night, but I was so tired of fighting. I thought I could convince him not to.424 Feruza F. described being raped her first night in her abductors home and for years afterward:
Other family members, including particularly the intended grooms mother, fail to protect women in cases of rape. Feruza F. said, I told my mother-in-law that I didnt want to live with him, but she just said I needed to stay, she said, It happened to me also and I lived through it and so should you . She yelled at me for not wanting to sleep with her son.426
Stigma associated with rape, or with leaving a marriage
Rape has profound consequences on an abducted womans ability to escape her kidnapper. Women in Kyrgyzstan who have been raped by their abductors experience rape as a form of coercion: it functions to force a woman to submit to marriage, to prevent her from escaping, and to isolate her from her family and community.
When a kidnapped woman is raped in Kyrgyzstan, she is viewed as ruined, branded shameful, and is often rejected by her family and community if she seeks to leave her abductor. Many young women who are raped by their kidnappers experience despair and hopelessness and become convinced that they have no choice but to stay: one rights defender commented on cases of rape during kidnapping that since she has lost her virginity [the girl] thinks she would never have a future if she left.427 The extended consequences of the rape on her prospects for escape are therefore both real and perceivedthe woman sees herself as tainted and, anticipating being rejected by her family and community, feels compelled to remain with her kidnapper and rapist.
Bubusara Ryskulova points out that many women indeed have no place to go if their parents reject them after the rape: [I]f shes been raped, she thinks shes ruined and theres nowhere to go. If shes poor, then there is nowhere to go.428
Observers point out that if a woman spends one full night in the abductors home, she is considered no longer pure, regardless of whether she is still a virgin.429 Turganbubu Orunbaeva, whose NGO in Naryn advocates for an end to bride-kidnapping, has worked on cases in which parents refused to help their daughters escape abduction be cause they, and their community, saw the young women as ruined. Orunbaeva said that in one case a young girl was kidnapped and after three days was no longer a virgin and so her parents refused to let her leave the forced marriage.430
Echoing this, one government official observed, If a girl stays there [at the abductors home], it is considered shameful if she goes home. So many women decide rather than bear the insults, its better to stay there.431Elmira E. said, I was afraid of the new relatives, but when my own parents came to see me, they said, Dont come home to us, or no one will respect us anymore. Elmira E. stayed with her abductor and endured years of violence in her marriage until she finally escaped with her children in 1992.432
In some cases, the womans natal family strikes a deal with the abductors out of interest for their own social standing. Aisulu A., for example, was prevented by her abductors from summoning her mother during the initial period of the abduction, only to find that [l]ater, after the fact, my mother and mother-in-law agreed to the marriage.433 The parents of the kidnapped woman or girl are sometimes given money by the grooms parents in the form of a kalym, a bride price, as a means of canceling out the damage done.434 Such arrangements disregard the kidnapped womans safety and happiness and deny her any decision-making authority.
Even in cases when the womans natal family signals that it would not reject her after an abduction, she may still fear the consequences of leaving her kidnappers. Tursunai T. was kidnapped by strangers and prevented from escaping. She endured 15 years of abuse by her husband. When her daughter was grown up and was also kidnapped, Tursunai T. did not want her daughter to remain with her abductor. The daughter, however, feared the social consequences of leaving. Tursunai T. said, My daughter was kidnapped. I went to her immediately when they informed me. shedecided to stay. Otherwise it will be shameful and I dont know what my future would be, she said. I wanted to take her away. I asked the parents-in-law. I then decided to do what my daughter wanted, so I left her there. I always worry about her future, if shell be happy.435 Similarly, Keres K., who was kidnapped by an acquaintance, said, I agreed to stay, this is our tradition, and if a girl leaves it is shameful.436
Women conditioned and taught to endure abduction
Many young women and girls are taught by their families not to leave their abductors home if they are kidnapped. A set of popular proverbs are employed to deliver the message that women should submit to an abduction if kidnapped, that they should not seek to escape, and that leaving will bring them unhappiness for the rest of their lives. NGO leaders and government officials agree that these social messages can predispose women to submit to a kidnapping, regardless of their own wishes.
Two popular sayings along these lines, referenced by people Human Rights Watch interviewed, were: When a stone is thrown, it stays where it lands and, once youve crossed the threshold, you cant go back. According to one official, These sayings mean that if you exit the house, something bad will happen. Mothers and grandmothers tell the girl not to leave if she is kidnapped and they use these proverbs [as instruction]. [G]irls therefore stay, because they were told these messages and it affects them.437 Abductors, including female relatives of the intended groom who take part in the abduction, employ these sayings to coerce kidnapped women to stay and agree to marry their kidnapper.
Aida A., who was kidnapped by strangers at age 18, said, If you are kidnapped, you must stay or they will curse you [with a bad life]. She remained with her abductor, who physically abused her for 25 years.438 Tursunai T., who was kidnapped by strangers at the age of 18 and taken to a remote area, spoke of the psychological power of these curses, They also put bread and salt across the doorway, so I could not leave, it would be a bad [omen] for me, [a curse].439 Shoira S. recalled the influence that belief in these curses had on her: My moms best friend came to the house to convince me to stay. We have this belief that once a girl has crossed the threshold, she cant turn back, or else she will have trouble all of her life. She told me that everyone she knows who left a marriage after kidnapping was unhappy. She said that [if I left] I wont be happy, I wont get married, I wont have children.440 Ainura A., recalling her abduction, said, They brought the wedding clothes and I tried to fight them off. They tried to convince me. His grandmother lay over the threshold; if you cross over her, youll have a terrible life.441
Farida F., kidnapped at age 19, described the pressure put on her by her abductors as intense, and said she gave in when she recalled the messages she had received growing up. She said:
One government official suggested it was the power of the social warnings, or curses, that left women unhappy after abduction and confirmed that young women often therefore fear the consequences of leaving. He said, Modern girls are more likely to leave. But I have not seen a single girl who left and was then happy. These girls go back to their families and are not happy again. The parents of the man curse her and she cannot find happiness, so many girls are therefore afraid to leave.443
Physical and emotional pain and suffering
In many cases, a woman who is abducted experiences a compounded trauma: the kidnapping and the years of abuse that follow. Some women feel insulted and angry at the loss of control they experience during a kidnapping. Nargiza N. was kidnapped by a classmate and managed to leave hours later when her parents were convinced to come and retrieve her. She said, I felt really insulted that he had kidnapped me. I didnt like him using such violent means and lies. I was also angry that his family tried to force me to stay and used such force.444
Women become extremely agitated during the kidnapping. Shoira S. recalled the emotional pain she felt when she was kidnapped: The night that my husband kidnapped me, he took me home to his house at about 6 p.m. They put me in a room in the corner with the curtain for the bride. I cried, I resisted, I asked them not to force me, because I was still so young. This resistance went on until 5 a.m. the next morning. And all that time they couldnt get me to calm down. 445 Abductions by the womans acquaintance or friend can be no less brutal and emotionally damaging than abductions by strangers. Ainura A. was kidnapped by the man she had been dating for several years. She had declined to marry him in part because her mother objected to the match. She described her shock and terror when she was locked in his familys home and the scarf was forced on her. I cried and screamed, she said. I tried to fight them off.446
But resistance can give way to a sense of helplessness when the women are physically overpowered by their abductors, and emotionally overwhelmed by their situation. As in cases of domestic violence, women who were kidnapped told Human Rights Watch or local womens rights NGOs that they experienced anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and fear and paranoia, which are all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.447
Feruza F. described the lasting trauma she experienced after being abducted by a stranger and raped and beaten by him for a year-and-a-half. She said that when she managed to return home to her parents she was psychologically ill and had heart problems, I wasnt able to sleep. My parents took me to the doctor, who gave me medicine.448 She described the crippling trauma she continues to experience years later, Im still afraid; afraid that it will happen again. I wont talk to any men. Im afraid of everything now.449
Some women feel such deep despair following an abduction that they attempt to take their own lives. One activist spoke of the emotional state of a young girl who was kidnapped at age 12 and able to return home to her mother a year later, At that point, she should have been in the ninth grade, but she couldnt go to school because of the shame. She wanted to kill herself, she tried several times 450
Shoira S. suffered severe depression after her abduction and marriage to a man who was apparently mentally ill and impotent (see above). She said she was under pressure to become pregnant. Her depression eventually drove Shoira S. to attempt suicide at the age of 18. She said:
A number of women interviewed by Human Rights Watch who were kidnapped by strangers expressed sympathy for their male abductors. In extreme cases, captured women came to identify with their abductor, to seek his approval. Reminiscent of what is commonly referred to as Stockholm Syndome among hostages, this response appears to have been a coping mechanism. The womens identification with their abductors and anxiety for approval of their abusers served to prevent them from taking opportunities to escape the abusive situation.
Aisulu A. expressed such identification with her kidnapper, a stranger to her who had raped her on the first night at his home. When she became pregnant he told her to get an abortion. The man prevented her from fleeing and refused to protect her when her sister-in-law repeatedly beat her. Instead of holding her husband responsible for kidnapping her, she viewed him as equally a victim of the kidnapping. We were both forced to marry, she said.452 With regard to beatings by her sister-in-law, Aisulu A. expressed a desperate desire for the approval of her abductor, I wanted to talk to him and explain that it was not my fault, that I am good, that it was his sister.453
As described above, for women and girls who are abducted for forced marriage their first encounter with their future husband is characterized by violence and psychological trauma. The physical and psychological abuse often continue in the marriage. Experts who work with victims of domestic violence observed that it is particularly prevalent in marriages that begin with kidnapping.454 An intern with the NGO Diamond noted, If a man uses violence to get a wife, its a signal that he will use violence in the future.455
Others who work with women victims of kidnapping say that the nature of the violence they face in the home is often the same as that endured by women who marry through arranged marriages or who chose their spouse, but that violence starts earlier in marriages that take place through kidnapping.456
Many of the women victims of abduction for forced marriage who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch described in detail the abuse that they suffered at the hands of their husbands. This testimony is presented in the first section of this report, on domestic violence.
New brides forced to work as unpaid servants for their in-laws
As noted above in the background section of this report, new brides are often treated harshly by their in-laws and particularly are regarded as, and function much like, servants to their mothers-in-law. The new bride is expected to do the mother-in-laws bidding while often suffering physical and psychological abuse by her and other members of the family. In cases of abductionespecially abduction by strangers, when the womans natal family has little or no connection to her marital familyshe appears to be particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by her mother-in-law and others in the extended family, as well as by her husband. This is especially true also in cases when the woman is kept in isolated circumstances or forbidden to leave the house.
Families in Kyrgyzstan generally exploit the labor of new brides as a way of adding to the resources and productivity of the household with little cost to the family. In such cases the abducted womans situation is analogous to unpaid servitude. Farida F. recalled what it was like after her abduction, at age 19:
Feruza F., who was abducted at the age of 17, recounted her daily routine: They never let me out of the house. I would milk the cows and then prepare the breakfast and then make the beds and clean the house and make bread and make the lunch and pick apples and then in the evening Id make another meal for everyone. I did everything.458 Elmira E. also said she was forced to work for her husbands family: I did everything around the house. I even took care of the cattle and the garden that was five hectares.459
Tursunai T. was abducted by strangers who forced her to work every day herding their sheep. It was the family business, but she saw no profit from it and owned no share in it when she eventually fled. She observed, Its shameful that I worked for 15 years and I have nothing to show for it.460
Many times the family members of a womans abductor treat her as though she is their property. Ainura A., who was kidnapped and then years later kicked out of the home by her mother-in-law, said, Later she went to the mosque and said, Return her to me and they refused. They said, You didnt ask for our advice when you kicked her out, why should she be your slave forever.461
Gulzat G. recounted the conditions she was forced to live under in her in-laws home, where her role was more like that of an unpaid servant than a member of the family:
The law against bride-kidnapping
Bride-kidnapping is illegal in Kyrgyzstan. Article 155 of the Criminal Code outlaws non-consensual marriage by abduction. It says, Forcing a woman to marry or to continue a marriage or kidnapping her in order to marry without her consent will be punished under the law. The prescribed penalty is a fine in the amount of 100 to 200 times the minimum monthly wage or up to five years in prison.463 (The minimum monthly wage in Kyrgyzstan in 2005 was about 100 som, equivalent to about $2.42).464
Womens rights advocates view the option of a fine for so serious a crime as outrageous. Its crazy that theres only a 20,000 som fine for abduction. He takes her, rapes her, and throws her out and gets just a fine, said activist Zhanna Saralaeva.465
Sociologist Medina Aitieva agrees: The penal code should be much clearer on the punishment [for kidnapping]. For most serious crimes you get a jail sentence, but for abduction they give the option of a fine. Accomplices and others complicit should also get jail time and people should be aware that they run a risk by being part of such an act.466
Other laws, in particular article 111 of the Criminal Code, can also be employed to hold kidnappers to account for the violence against women that often accompanies abductions. As noted in the previous chapter on domestic violence, article 111 criminalizes the infliction of physical or psychologi cal suffering on a person through systematic beatings or other violence. The prescribed penalty of up to three years in prison is increased to up to seven years if the violence is committed against a person who had been abducted or taken hostage. Other relevant aggravating circumstances include when the violence is committed by a group or by a group acting under a conspiracy. Criminal Code article 112, Purposeful infliction of light damage to health, can also be relevant to some cases of kidnapping.
The 2003 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence is essentially silent on the issue. Article 4 states that one of the principles guiding this law is protection from religious, cultural and other customs that may harm family relationships, but makes no further references that could be construed as providing specific protection against the practice of bride-kidnapping.467
The CEDAW Committee has stated its concern about the continuing existence of bride abduction and polygyny in Kyrgyzstan, despite laws against these practices. It said, The Committee recommends action without delay by the State party to enforce its laws penalizing these practices. The Committee also recommends that the State party take comprehensive and effective measures, including the training of the judiciary and law enforcement officials and public awareness raising campaigns, to eliminate these practices.468
Those responsible for law enforcement do not regard the abduction of women and girls for forced marriage as a serious crime. Local law enforcement officials who spoke to Human Rights Watch did not view it as a law enforcement issue at all. One senior police officer said, Abduction, its just called this. Ninety-nine percent of women agree to the kidnapping. I kidnapped my wife 469 A senior police official from another major city said, Bride-kidnappingoh, they only do this by agreement. This is following traditions. If theres not agreement, then people will file a complaint.470
Police officers interviewed by Human Rights Watch about abduction for forced marriage literally treated it as a laughing matter, giggling when the topic was brought up. Some made jokes about kidnapping or offered to kidnap Human Rights Watchs researchers while they were in town. According to NGO leaders, these attitudes were typical, and police are generally indifferent to the problem of kidnapping or, if anything, express support for the abductors rather than their victims (the rarity of actual reporting by women abduction victims to the police, and police non-responsiveness to cases made known to them, are discussed below). Such attitudes perpetuate the cycle of crime, arbitrariness of the law, and impunity for violent crimes against women.
As with police failure to protect women in cases of domestic violence, the failure of police to act on behalf of victims of bride-kidnapping is closely connected with womens lack of trust in police and the problem of rampant police corruption. When asked what steps the police are taking to prevent bride-kidnapping, Orunbaeva said, The police have no role in this so far.471
Investigations and prosecutions for bride-kidnapping extremely rare
Prosecutions for the crime of bride-kidnapping are extremely rare, and experts were unable to name a single case of abduction that had gone to trial. Ive never heard of a criminal case being opened related to a kidnapping, said Zhanna Saralaeva, an NGO activist from Jalal Abad.472 Medina Aitieva shared the same frustration:
Womens rights advocates say that a successfully prosecuted case would go far to highlight the problem and prevent future kidnappings. We need a judicial precedent in order to stopthis [cycle], said Bubusara Ryskulova.474 First though, the authorities responsible for carrying out the law need to recognize its validity and relevance, advocates say: The government must recognize that kidnapping is a crime. They need to carry out the laws that exist, declared Saralaeva.475
Few victims of kidnapping for forced marriage turn to the police. 476 The psychological pressure, fear of social stigma, and fear of retaliation that so effectively prevent a woman from fleeing a mans home after she is abducted also work to dissuade her from reporting the crime of kidnapping to the authorities.477 As Aitieva observed, Most women dont go to the police because theyre afraid of the negative consequences and condemnation of their families; and many are dependent on others and cant risk upsetting them. If a womans parents are willing to fight for her, then it can be pursued, but usually the parents are more concerned about how society views them than they are about fighting for their children.478
Even in the rare instances when a woman can overcome barriers and file a complaint, and when police register the womans complaint, activists charge, the authorities fail to prosecute cases of abduction. Turganbubu Orunbaeva, for example, reports that women victims of bride-kidnapping confront the same attitude with which Human Rights Watch researchers were met by police: If [women] go to the police, the police say, Its the tradition, everyone does it.479 She also spoke about her research into the issue, saying that out of 860 women interviewed about kidnapping, only three had brought criminal cases. In those three cases, she said, the men were not punished: The women gave statements [to the police] and then the statements never went to the court; the parents found common agreement and the women remained without justice.480 Another activist on bride-kidnapping issues said, Even when the neighborhood police officer finds out [about a kidnapping], he doesnt consider it a crime.481 A third said, When I was young, if a girl was taken by force, the police would interfere, but now theyve gotten used to it and no longer respond.482
One obstacle a woman faces when trying to pursue a criminal case against her abductors is the perception that if she succumbed to the pressure brought to bear on her and in the end submitted to the marriage and stayed at the home of her abductor, then she cannot hold her kidnappers accountable for their actions against her. She is seen as complicit in the kidnapping and is told she cannot bring a case against her abusers. For example, Aisulu A., who lived with her abductor for nine months, said that when she later consulted a lawyer about her options for bringing a case for the kidnapping and beatings by her sister-in-law, the lawyer advised that she had waited too long: The lawyer [at the shelter] said that after nine months [of marriage] I cant say that I was forced and kidnapped. [The lawyer] said I should have written a statement earlier and gotten a medical exam when [the sister-in-law] beat me.483
The case of one woman with police connections came up repeatedly as the one example of police taking action regarding a case of kidnapping. Even in this situation, there are doubts that justice was done. The woman was kidnapped, but was able to flee. She went to a local NGO for help, and was encouraged to file a complaint with the police. The woman had connections to the police, as her brother was a local police officer. She was successful in registering her complaint. The womans relatives came to an arrangement with the abductor, who gave the woman and her family money, and the matter was closed.484
Local and national government officials unresponsive to the kidnapping problem
NGO leaders report that when they raise the problem of bride-kidnapping with local government officials, they are spurned and ignored. Turganbubu Orunbaeva, of Bakubat NGO in Naryn, said, Even the people at the Akimiat [mayors office] who are responsible for gender issues say I should shut up. They all think I should shut up.485
Government officials responsible for human rights on a national level also resist responsibility to stop bride-kidnapping, and instead put the burden on women victims to ensure that the law is followed. Women should be the initiators of complaints, they should appeal. Not if girls are kidnapped and then agree to stay, but if she feels that there was a violation of her rights, said one official from the ombudsmans office, revealing at the same time his perception that women who agree to stay with their abductors have not experienced violation of their rights.486
326 The Kyrgyz language word ala kachuu refers to bride-stealing and can refer to consensual as well as non-consensual acts of taking a woman away from her natal family for the purposes of marriage. Thus, this term incorporates the idea of elopement or a mock abduction to which a woman consents, as well as abduction through deception and force. Human Rights Watch was told that these forms of consensual abduction do sometimes take place, but this report discusses only the non-consensual forms of ala kachuu.
327 There have been some cases reported also of abductions among ethnic Uzbeks, but these appear to be rare. Lori Handrahan reports that her study found that 100 percent of those who kidnapped were ethnic Kyrgyz. Lori Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 6:2, June 2004, p. 219.
328 For example, sociologists Russell Kleinbach, Mehrigiul Ablezova, and Medina Aitieva state in their 2005 report on the subject: At this time, the published literature, interviews with scholars, people in villages, and the evidence from our current research would suggest that prior to the 20th century the practice of bride-kidnapping was uncommon (both consensual and non-consensual), hence not a tradition. Our theory at the time of writing this paper is that in ancient times when the Kyrgyz tribes were still primarily nomadic, it occasionally happened that men from one tribe would steal women from other tribes for wives (ala kachuu). However, this was not the normal or usual way for marriages to be established. The traditional marriage was arranged, or at least approved, by the parents, either within or between tribes. This was the predominant practice prior to the 20th century. Russell Kleinbach, Mehrigiul Ablezova, and Medina Aitieva, Kidnapping for marriage (ala kachuu) in a Kyrgyz village, Central Asian Survey, vol. 24(2), June 2005, p. 192.
329 Ibid., pp. 191-202.
330 Ibid., p.197.
331 Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, p. 208.
332 Human Rights Watch interview with Mamat Momunov, ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
333 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Jalal Abad Police Department, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
334 Human Rights Watch interview with a government human rights official, name withheld, Bishkek, November 2005.
335 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunbek Akun, chairman, Presidential Commission for Human Rights, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
336 See, for example, Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005; Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005; Human Rights Watch interview with Medina Aitieva, American University-Central Asia, Bishkek, October 31, 2005; and Human Rights Watch interview with Taalaygul Isakunova, expert, the Presidential Council on Women, Family, and Gender Development, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
337 Kleinbach, Ablezova and Aitieva, Kidnapping for marriage (ala kachuu) in a Kyrgyz village, pp. 191-202.
339 Ibid., pp. 191-202. The study states that 117 respondents to the survey in the village were women and girls ages 16 to 25. Eighty-five percent of the married women and girls had been kidnapped. Seventy-five percent of those women and girls who were kidnapped responded that it had been done without their consent, that is through deception or force. Thus, 63 percent of married women and girls in the village in this age group were designated as kidnapped without consent.
340 Ibid. Elsewhere in the study, however, the researchers give womens responses to the question about consent and 64 percent of the women say they did not give their consent to the kidnapping; 46 percent say they were kidnapped through deception and 18 percent say they were kidnapped by physical force.
341 Ibid. The team came to this figure by analyzing their 2004 data along with data from similar surveys they had conducted in 1999 and 2001 to come up with a cumulative number and estimate for the nationwide rate of non-consensual abduction.
342 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
343 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
344 Adiljon Shamshiev, Kerben, Aksy, November 2005, as distributed by the KCHR.
345 The scarf is called a jooluk in Kyrgyz. Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, p. 209.
346 See above, introduction to this report, Womens Status in the Family and Society.
347 Human Rights Watch interview with Medina Aitieva, American University-Central Asia, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
348 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
349 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
350 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza N., October 2005.
351 Human Rights Watch interview with Muratali Uchkempirov, Youth Citizenship Development Group, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
352 Kleinbach, Ablezova and Aitieva, Kidnapping for marriage (ala kachuu) in a Kyrgyz village, p.197.
353 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2005: Kyrgyz Republic, March 8, 2006, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61657.htm (accessed August 11, 2006); Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Maria Lisitsyna, director, Youth Human Rights Group, August 15, 2006.
354 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
355 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
356 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
357 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
359 Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, pp. 208, 210.
360 Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
361 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
362 Kleinbach, Ablezova and Aitieva, in Kidnapping for marriage (ala kachuu) in a Kyrgyz village, found that among the most predominant reasons given by respondents for why a woman was kidnapped were woman might refuse a marriage proposal (29 percent), to prevent woman from marrying another (28 percent), and woman had refused a marriage proposal (12 percent), p.197.
363 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
364 Human Rights Watch interview with Maya Kaparova, Diamond, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
365 In an article on the subject published in early 2006, Zaripa Pratova notes that in all 35 cases of bride-kidnapping documented during one study in one district in the south, the women who were targeted had completed their secondary education and had good prospects for pursuing higher education. Zaripa Pratova, Gender the Kyrgyz Way: Kidnapped brides get along poorly with their kidnapper husbands, Fergana.ru, Jalal-Abad, February 15, 2006, reproduced at http://centrasia.org/newsA.php4?st=1140002100 (accessed March 8, 2006). In their study, Kleinbach, Ablezova and Aitieva found that 38 percent of the women surveyed had some university or technical schooling, while 21 percent of the women had completed a university education as of the time they were kidnapped. Kleinbach, Ablezova, and Aitieva, Kidnapping for marriage (ala kachuu) in a Kyrgyz village, p. 195.
366 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
367 Human Rights Watch interview with Medina Aitieva, American University-Central Asia, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
368 Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, p.221.
369 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
370 Zaripa Pratova, Gender the Kyrgyz Way: Kidnapped brides get along poorly with their kidnapper husbands, Fergana.ru, Jalal-Abad , February 15, 2006, reproduced at http://centrasia.org/newsA.php4?st=1140002100 (accessed March 8, 2006).
371 Kleinbach, Ablezova and Aitieva, Kidnapping for marriage (ala kachuu) in a Kyrgyz village, p.195. By contrast, according to the study, only 9 percent of the men did not know the woman they kidnapped.
372 Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, p. 209.
373 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
374 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
375 Human Rights Watch interview with Aida A., November 2005.
376 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 2005.
377 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
378 Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
379 Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
380 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Jalal Abad City Police Department, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
381 The American University-Central Asia report offers statistics for the rates of non-consensual kidnappings in one village, including those undertaken through force or deception. The report states that physical force was used against 18 percent of the women who did not give their consent to the kidnapping. Kleinbach, Ablezova and Aitieva, Kidnapping for marriage (ala kachuu) in a Kyrgyz village, pp. 195-196.
382 Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, p. 220.
383 Ibid., p. 222. Handrahan further asserts that kidnappings are an ethnic fraternal act, an expression of Kyrgyz male identity.
384 Ibid., p. 224.
385 Human Rights Watch interview with Maya Kaparova, Diamond NGO, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
386 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
387 Human Rights Watch interview with Ainura A., November 2005.
389 Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, p. 220.
390 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
391 Thirty-two percent drank moderately (three or fewer one-liter bottles of vodka shared among the group), while 19 percent of kidnappers interviewed drank excessively (three to four men drinking three or more one-liter bottles of vodka) in preparation for the kidnapping. Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, p. 220. Local activist Turganbubu Orunbaeva also assessed that many men involved in kidnappings are drunk. Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Babukat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
392 Handrahan, Hunting for Women: Bride-kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, p. 220. Handrahan also reports that her study found that men with higher education were more likely to drink excessively and use force to kidnap, p. 224.
393 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
394 Human Rights Watch interview with Ainura A., November 2005.
395 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
396 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 5, 2005.
398 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
399 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza N., October 2005.
400 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
401 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
402 Human Rights Watch interviews with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1; and Aleksandra Eliferenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
403 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
404 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
405 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
406 Human Rights Watch interview with Zamira Tokhtohojaeva, UN Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
407 Human Rights Watch interviews with Nargiza Eshtaeva, Ailzat, Osh, November 8; and Burul Sopieva, KCHR, Bishkek, November 2, 2005.
408 Human Rights Watch interview with Svetlana Sayakbayeva and Erkin Asanaliev, Tendesh, Naryn, November 5, 2005.
409 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
410 Email communication with Human Rights Watch consultant, Sardar Bagishbekov, based on his telephone interview with Imam Muhammad Azam, Chui province, April 25, 2006. The imam added that if there is explicit refusal of consent, it would be considered a sin for the moldo to proceed with the wedding rites. See also, Human Rights Watch interview with Muratali Uchkempirov, Youth Citizenship Development Group, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
411 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
412 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
413 Human Rights Watch interview with a human rights defender, name withheld, place withheld, November 2005.
414 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
415 Human Rights Watch interview with Muratali Uchkempirov, Youth Citizenship Development Group, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
416 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
417 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
418 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
419 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
420 Human Rights Watch interview with Muratali Uchkempirov, Youth Citizenship Development Group, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
421 Rape is always part of the kidnap, according to Bubusara Ryskulova, who has headed an NGO and crisis center for women victims of violence since 1998. Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005. Speaking of the American University-Central Asia study published in 2005, Medina Aitieva said, In some small percentage of cases rape did take place. She added, Of course, we dont know how many unreported cases there are. Human Rights Watch interview with Medina Aitieva, American University-Central Asia, Bishkek, October 31, 2005. The published study does not give statistics for the number of women who were raped during kidnapping. Aleksandra Eliferenko confirmed the tendency of women not to report crimes of sexual violence, including rape. Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksandra Elifrenko, Chance, Bishkek, October 28, 2005.
422 In one reported case, a young student at a prestigious university went to visit her relatives in a village. She was kidnapped by a man in the village. She resisted her kidnappers and refused to consent to the marriage. Finally, the mans relatives instructed him to take her back home. On the way, the man and two of his male accomplices in the kidnapping raped the woman. Gulchehra Karimova and Azamat Kasybekov, Silence of brides, (Molchanie nevest), Vechernii Bishkek, October 21, 2003, http://www.vb.kg/2003/10/21/panorama/1.html (accessed March 7, 2006).
423 The World Health Organizations World Report on Violence and Health indicates that common consequences of rape include reproductive, mental, and social well-being problems. Reproductive complications include pregnancy and gynecological problems, such as vaginal bleeding, genital irritation, urinary tract infections, and sexually transmitted diseases. Mental health problems include a risk of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal behavior, and sleep difficulties. The report also states that victims of sexual violence often also become targets of social ostracism. Etienne G. Krug, Linda L. Dahlberg, James A. Mercy, Anthony B. Ziwi, and Rafael Lozano, eds., World Health Organization World Report on Violence and Health (2002), http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/world_report/en/full_en.pdf (accessed April 27, 2006), pp. 162-164. The report also noted on pp. 163-164 the pressures on women in some societies to conceal rape: In some societies, the cultural solution' to rape is that the woman should marry the rapist, thereby preserving the integrity of the woman and her family by legitimizing the union. Such a solution is reflected in the laws of some countries, which allow a man who commits rape to be excused his crime if he marries the victim. Apart from marriage, families may put pressure on the woman not to report or pursue a case or else to concentrate on obtaining financial damages from the rapist's family. Men may reject their wives if they have been raped and in some countries, as mentioned previously, restoring lost honour calls for the woman to be cast out or in extreme cases, murdered.
424 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
425 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 2005.
427 Human Rights Watch interview with Burul Sopieva, KCHR, Bishkek, November 2, 2005.
428 Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
429 Human Rights Watch interview with Burul Sopieva, KCHR, Bishkek, November 2, 2005.
430 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Ornbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
431 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunbek Akun, chairman, Presidential Commission for Human Rights, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
432Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
433 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
434 Adiljon Shamshiev, Kerben, Aksy, November 2005, as distributed by the KCHR.
435 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
436 Human Rights Watch interview with Keres K., November 2005.
437 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunbek Akun, chairman, Presidential Commission for Human Rights, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.
438 Human Rights Watch interview with Aida A., November 2005.
439 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
440 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
441 Human Rights Watch interview with Ainura A., November 2005.
442 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F., November 2005.
443 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior government official, name withheld, Bishkek, November 2005.
444 Human Rights Watch interview with Nargiza N., October 2005.
445 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
446 Human Rights Watch interview with Ainura A., November 2005.
447 See above, footnote 114.
448 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 2005.
450 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
451 Human Rights Watch interview with Shoira S., November 2005.
452 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
454 For example, Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
455 Human Rights Watch interview with Bektur Davletov, intern, Diamond, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
456 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
457 Human Rights Watch interview with Farida F., November 2005.
458 Human Rights Watch interview with Feruza F., November 2005.
459 Human Rights Watch interview with Elmira E., November 2005.
460 Human Rights Watch interview with Tursunai T., November 2005.
461 Human Rights Watch interview with Ainura A., November 2005.
462 Human Rights Watch interview with Gulzat G., November 2005.
463 Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic.
464 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2005: Kyrgyz Republic, March 8, 2006, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61657.htm (accessed June 23, 2006).
465 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
466 Human Rights Watch interview with Medina Aitieva, American University-Central Asia, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
467 Law on Social-Legal Protection from Domestic Violence, 2003.
468 Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Thirtieth session (January 12-30, 2004), Thirty-first session (July 6-23, 2004), General Assembly Official Records, Fifty-ninth Session, Supplement No. 38 (A/59/38), United Nations, New York, 2004.
469 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Jalal Abad City Police Department, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
470 Human Rights Watch interview with a senior police officer, name withheld, Osh Province Police Department, Osh, November 10, 2005.
471 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005. Several NGOs reported that police take an interest only when they sense that their negligence has been noted and they are in danger of reprimand from the higher ranks for their failure to uphold the law. One activist in southern Kyrgyzstan told Human Rights Watch of a young girl who was kidnapped at the age of 12 by a man in his fifties, kept by him for a year, and then kicked out of his house because she had failed to have children. The young girls mother turned to the authorities for help. The mother wrote a statement to the police. They just failed to register it because the man was rich and well-respected, according to the activist. A year later the activist told a journalist about the story and it was published in a newspaper, without any names given. This finally sparked the authorities interest, but their investigation did not focus on the perpetrator of the crime. Instead, the NGO that the mother had appealed to was the target of authorities interest. An activist from that NGO said, The city administration, province administration, and procuracy and neighborhood police all began to come to our office to scare us and insult us, and insisted that we tell them who the mother and daughter are . Bishkek had probably called [after the newspaper article]. The police were most intent, it seems, on protecting themselves. The mother and daughter faired poorly. The activist told Human Rights Watch, When we went to find the mother, she had died. The girl had been handed over to [a relative]. Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
472 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
473 Human Rights Watch interview with Medina Aitieva, American University-Central Asia, Bishkek, October 31, 2005. The documentary referred to by Aitieva was made by filmmaker Petr Lom in 2004. It shows instances of bride-kidnapping and features interviews with some of the women and men involved. It has been used as an advocacy tool by groups in Kyrgyzstan that oppose bride-kidnapping.
474 Human Rights Watch interview with Bubusara Ryskulova, Sezim, Bishkek, November 1, 2005.
475 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005.
476 Human Rights Watch interview with Olga Klementieva, lawyer, Chance, Bishkek, October 29, 2005.
477 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
478 Human Rights Watch interview with Medina Aitieva, American University-Central Asia, Bishkek, October 31, 2005.
479 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
481 Human Rights Watch interview with Muratali Uchkempirov, Youth Citizenship Development Group, Jalal Abad, November 11, 2005.
482 Human Rights Watch interview with a human rights defender, name withheld, place withheld, November 2005.
483 Human Rights Watch interview with Aisulu A., November 2005.
484 Human Rights Watch interview with Zhanna Saralaeva, Association of Women Leaders of Jalal Abad and Kaniet Crisis Center, Jalal Abad, November 10, 2005. Although article 16 of the Kyrgyz Civil Code does recognize the right of victims of certain crimes to sue the perpetrator for compensation for damages, there was no civil suit pursued in this case and monies paid by the abductor were apparently the result of an arrangement reached between the abductor and the kidnapped womans family, rather than as the result of a court decision. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any case of a woman victim of abduction for forced marriage having brought a civil suit against her abductor for compensation under article 16.
485 Human Rights Watch interview with Turganbubu Orunbaeva, Bakubat, Naryn, November 4, 2005.
486 Human Rights Watch interview with officials from the ombudsmans office, Bishkek, November 14, 2005.