Evil customs remain in society, bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan



Will Wetzel

In America, we are blessed with inalienable rights that not many people in the world have. We have the right to vote, freedom of speech and the freedom to peacefully protest. We take these rights for granted, and therefore wrongfully assume that other countries grant their citizens the same rights innately.

The way of the world is very different in America. We live in a fairly progressive society. We are currently striving towards equality for all. We may not always succeed, but we always look for new solutions to make our great nation even greater. We also live in a country with many customs. We hang the American flag on the Fourth of July. We recite the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools. We grow up and work towards our goals in life. And we marry and start a family with who we love. Our custom of marriage is a beautiful one, and one that should be celebrated, not discouraged. Other countries have marriage customs as well. Unfortunately, I was made aware recently of one horrific custom that I believe needs to be addressed and discussed among students.

Bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan—an evil custom that no one talks about. The Kyrgyz people call it ala kachuu, or “grab and run.” This practice involves the groom to-be recruiting a group of his buddies, and they drive around looking for a girl that the groom wants to marry. Sometimes the groom knows the girl before they plan the snatch, but sometimes the groom picks a woman impulsively. Once the woman the groom wants is found, the poor unsuspecting woman is dragged off the street by the groom’s friends and brought back to the groom’s house where immediately the groom’s family engages in a type of peer pressure to convince the woman to marry the groom. Usually, it is the elders who try to convince the bride to stay by trying to tie a white scarf around the bride’s head, which symbolizes that she is ready to marry her captor. 

Obviously, to every reasonable human being, this practice is abhorrent for many reasons. The statistics reveal that slightly less than 50% marriages are arranged this way. Two-thirds of these marriages are also non-consensual, yet around 85% of the women who are captured end up marrying whoever abducted her. So why do evil customs such as this exist? 

There are two reasons why horrible customs are considered acceptable in these nations. First of all, people are opposed to change. The recent negative reaction to our presidential election is proof of that. Anyone who questions the status quo is cast as a subversive and therefore a threat to society even though they are probably not. The second problem is regarding the enforcement of laws. In Kyrgyzstan, law enforcement is notorious for turning a blind eye to the kidnappings even while it is happening right under their noses. Why would the police, whose job is to protect and serve citizens, not help these young women? 

There is an answer to that. The Kyrgyz government provides law enforcement with very low wages compared to most other countries. As a result, the Kyrgyz police force is incredibly dependent on bribes to supplement their income. This leads to widespread corruption, so the faith in the Kyrgyz police force is low as a result. When no one trusts the people enforcing the laws, a country becomes anarchic. People are enabled to break the laws when they know there is a good chance that the crime will go unpunished. So the reason why this custom gets overlooked is that either the Kyrgyz police just don’t want to be bothered with it or they are bribed by the groom to look the other way.

This custom is unfortunately just one example of how some other countries lag far behind the United States in terms of women’s rights. This horrible custom prohibits women from expressing their own free will. The important part of marriage is that women get to choose who they want to marry. This point does not exist in Kyrgyzstan and other countries that espouse this terrible practice. Marriage is supposed to be a consensual practice and an equal partnership, is it not?

So the best strategy for bringing about equality between the sexes is to not incentivize people for committing these atrocities. This starts in changing the current laws. The Kyrgyz government needs to create stricter penalties for people found committing these crimes. Even more importantly, the Kyrgyz police force needs positive, constructive reform. The Kyrgyz government needs to decrease corruption by finding a way to recruit new police officers and getting the current ones to uphold the law. How do you do this? Increasing the base salaries should help recruit new law enforcement officers and not provide them with reasons to willingly accept bribes. But the Kyrgyz government needs to do a better job at holding everyone, including themselves, accountable. Without accountability, people disregard the rules and pursue illegal and unethical activities with only their interests in mind.