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Bride kidnapping, also known as marriage by abduction or marriage by capture, is a form of forced marriage practiced in a few traditional cultures, in countries including Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, the Caucasus region, Ethiopia and Rwanda. From the perspective of most cultures in the world, bride kidnapping is considered a sex crime, rather than a valid form of marriage.
In agricultural and patriarchal societies, where the bride kidnapping is most common, children work for their family and a woman becomes the member of the groom's family at marriage. Due to this loss of labor, woman's family do not want their daughter to marry young and demand economic compensation when they do. This is in contrast with the interests of men, who want to marry early, as marriage means an increase in social status, and the interests of the groom's family. Being "kidnapped" might also be in the interests of the woman in such societies, as their role in the society would preclude them from choosing husbands for themselves, at the risk of being disowned or even killed, and under the law, their consent is not a factor in judging whether they were kidnapped.
The mechanism of bride kidnappings varies depending on where it is taking place. In Ethiopia and Rwanda the mechanism is quite brutal, where the man kidnaps the woman and rapes her. The family of the woman either then feels obliged to agree, or is forced to when the kidnapper impregnates her.
In Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian countries, the practice is different. The groom's male relatives abduct the girl, while the older women of the family then put pressure on her to marry. Some families will keep the girl hostage for several days to try and crack her, others will let her go if she stays defiant. The groom usually never sees the bride until she has either agreed to marry or as a last ditch effort to try and convince her to stay. It is also common for the woman's family to be contacted to help convince her to stay, and indeed often they approve of the forced marriage. While less violent than that practiced elsewhere, the essence of the process is still the same. Such social stigma is attached that the kidnapped woman usually feels that she has no choice but to agree, and many of those who refuse even commit suicide afterwards. Although it is illegal in Kyrgyzstan, the kidnappers are almost never convicted.
Marriage by capture was practiced in ancient cultures throughout the Mediterranean area. According to some sources, the practice of the honeymoon is a relic of marriage by capture, based on the practice of the husband going into hiding with his wife to avoid reprisals from her relatives, with the intention that the woman would be pregnant by the end of the month.
In Catholic canon law, the impediment of raptus specifically prohibits marriage between a woman abducted with intent to force her to marry, and her abductor, as long as the woman remains in the abductor's power.
- The Kidnapped Bride: A film by Petr Lom
- Spotlight on: Violence Against Girls in Ethiopia -- Marriage by Abduction and Rape
- Rights-Rwanda: Marriage by Abduction Worries Women's Groups
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