For most of us in Western society, most of the people in the world for that matter, you find someone you feel you could spend your life with, there’s a mutual attraction – not always instant love, but attraction – and that forms the basis of a marriage. Love-based marriages are the preferred way to go for many people. You both love each other and you want to get hitched and start a family. Sometimes people prefer to stick to traditions and customs when it comes to getting married. Arranged marriages – which aren’t the same as forced marriages – is prevalent in certain cultures in certain regions. Very often, a husband and wife who’ve gotten together due to an arranged marriage fall in love and go on to have very happy lives together.
But for some people in certain regions of the world, finding their special someone, the women they want to marry, doesn’t occur like this. In some places, it’s customary for a man to kidnap the woman they want to marry. Bride kidnapping, also known as bridenapping, is a truly despicable act. Those who partake in such practices, and the countries and governments that turn a blind eye to bridenappings, have received worldwide condemnation. Yet still, very little’s been done to protect and try and safeguard women from potentially being kidnapped and forced into marriage or to stamp out the act and bring the perpetrators to justice. Want to learn more about the practice of bridenapping? Read on to find out 15 shocking facts about this abhorrent crime.
15. It’s A Growing Hidden Crime
Once upon a time, bridenappings used to occur in just a few places in the world, and used to be carried out by certain groups of people. Those who kidnapped their brides were normally tribal people, but that’s no longer the case. Bridenappings aren’t just limited to tribal communities; it’s a growing problem, and it’s now widespread. It’s also a crime that’s not really spoken about as much as it should be. Every nation in the world knows what’s going on in these countries, however, for some unknown reason, it’s still a pretty hidden crime, hidden not just by those who kidnap women, but by the countries of those who do so. It’s all very hush hush, which, considering the effect it could have on a woman’s life, is a crime in itself. Actually, I say it’s hush hush, but many of those who actually carry out the kidnappings celebrate it and shout about it from the rooftops, once any heat has died down of course.
14. It’s A Booming Business
In most regions where bridenappings take place, the kidnappings are often carried out by the future grooms themselves. They often go along in a car with a friend or two, and when they spot the woman they’ve targeted, they snatch her, whisk her away where all the relevant people would be waiting to marry them off. Sometimes, it’s the future groom’s family who help with kidnapping, and sometimes, even the kidnapped victim’s family are involved and help orchestrate the whole process! But in certain countries, like China for example, those who are desperate to find a wife, pay others to do their dirty work. The one-child policy and shortage of women has meant that many men find it very hard to find a bride, and so some go to extreme lengths to find a wife. They pay kidnappers to make it happen. These kidnappers, because of the shortage of women in China, often select women from neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, kidnap them, and smuggle them into China where they’re forced to marry their new husbands.
13. Bridenappings Are Known To Occur In At Least 17 Countries
The exact figures in relation to bridenappings are unknown. Unfortunately, it’s going to be the case that bridenappings occur in some capacity in pretty much every country on earth, including in Western societies. It’s just that in such regions, it’s unlikely you’re going hear too much about it, because the kidnappers won’t be shouting about what they’ve just done, and the judicial system’s going to come down hard on anyone who does. There are 17 countries in which bridenapping’s regarded to be a pretty major problem. The top countries on this list are Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Chechnya. In these countries, some may actually go as far as to say that it’s an epidemic, and the lax laws and lack of effort from the governments of these countries to stamp out such practices has meant that it’s continued to grow over the years and doesn’t look like it’s going to be a dying practice any time soon.
12. Tradition Or Crime?
To you and I and I’m sure most of the other people who hear about bridenappings, it’s without a doubt a criminal activity. You’re taking someone against their will, forcing them to marry you, and on occasions doing other truly abhorrent things. That’s a crime, it’s a process riddled by crime. But, in a lot of those countries where bridenapping is prevalent, many people see the practice of bridenapping as a tradition. It’s grown from a twisted traditional culture, so much so, that even the regular people on the street, and those in high up places, those that aren’t directly involved in bridenappings, deem it to be acceptable. But, if it is a tradition, this tradition has changed over the years, really changed. Now, in many instances, bridenappings get violent and they aren’t just about kidnapping a future bride. Tradition or crime? I reckon the vast majority of you wouldn’t have to think about your answer.
11. It’s All For Work
The future grooms who kidnap their brides often know the woman. Very often it’s someone they’ve grown up with, a girl from the village, perhaps a classmate, even a friend. It’s not really about picking a stranger from the street or seeing a woman you think would make a great wife, kidnapping her, and forcing her into marriage. It doesn’t really work like that. But in certain regions, something very similar occurs. Brides aren’t selected and kidnapped based on whether or not she tickles the groom’s fancy. They’re selected solely because of their ability to work. Some brides get forcibly kidnapped and forced to work on the family’s land, and some are basically kidnapped and forced into slavery. They’re brought into a new family to serve them, cook, clean and basically wait on their new husband and his family hand and foot. What’s scary is that a lot of women from these countries know that this is a real possibility, that this could end up being the life for them, so they don’t bother going to school to get an education. That’s how real it is for women in such regions, they expect it to happen.
10. Consensual Bridenapping
Ok, so this ties into the whole tradition vs crime debate. I think 99% of you would consider bridenapping to be a crime. But, if you trace its origins back, it was actually part of a cultural custom. Many of the elders in countries like Kyrgyzstan have brides as a result of bridenappings. It’s a practiced tradition, and hasn’t died down. People say it gets a bad rep because of the force and violence that’s used. Understandably, that’s going to get a lot of people talking, but it hasn’t always been like that, and it still isn’t always like that. It’s so widespread, like I’ve said previously, that many girls expect to be kidnapped, so they just go along with it. Some also accept that it’s part of a custom, and leave with their future groom without any fuss, and actually consent to be taken as a custom. But, in today’s day and age, forced bridenappings are trumping consensual bridenappings by a big margin, and that’s where the problem lies.
9. It’s Widely Considered To Be A Sex Crime
By the governments of the countries in which bridenappings are prevalent, bridenappings don’t really fall into the category of a kidnapping crime. Many deem it to be a sex crime. Even if the woman’s whereabouts are unknown, and there’s no evidence that any sexual contact, essentially rape, has taken place, it’s still deemed to be a sex crime. That’s because scarily, they just assume that bridenapping will result in a rape, because more often than not, that’s what tends to happen. In other countries too, if they’re presented with a case of a bridenapping, they won’t even recognize it as a valid marriage between the two, just a sex crime. Now, I don’t want to categorize levels of crime, but sex crimes seem more serious than bridenappings. Yet, in such regions, it’s still not really spoken about. Even the governments of these nations haven’t acted in a way many others think they should.
8. It’s Carried Out To “Taint” The Woman
There’s a reason – well, in their minds, the minds of the captors – that the women who are kidnapped are raped. It’s done specifically to taint them, so that their families won’t take them back even if they do manage to get free.
This is one bridenapping scenario: the future groom and perhaps one or two friends, or a team of kidnappers, stalk the woman they have in their sights and forcibly abduct her. Then, in all likelihood, the woman would be taken to a remote area, perhaps a rural village, or to some mountainous region. They stay there for a few days, or until any heat has died down. While they’re there, the man may force the woman to have sex. This is carried out even before the two get married. Although this is going against tradition and religion, and even the whole custom of bridenappings, it’s done essentially to give the bride no other choice but to marry that man. Once the heinous act has been done, they emerge from their hiding places without any fear. That’s because even if the woman wanted to go back, because she’s had sex with that person, it’s thought that she belongs to him. There’s also no chance of anyone marrying her in the future. So, there’s only one thing to do, and that’s to stay with her captor and get married.
7. On Occasions, Truly Heinous Things Happen
Here’s another case of a bridenapping, this time from a girl named Asana.
Asana was a 14-year-old from Somalia. She’d gone out to get some milk and other food items, when suddenly, a black car pulled up beside her and she was dragged kicking and screaming inside. A man in the car instantly announced that he’d just gotten engaged, that Asana was his future bride. Asana didn’t know it at the time, but the man was Mohamed Dahir, leader of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group. Asana was taken to a house in the middle of nowhere where she was systematically beaten, raped, and kept locked and chained up like an animal. She was kept bound to a chair. When she needed to go to the toilet he’d escort her and watch over her. She wasn’t allowed to speak – if she did she’d be beaten.
6. Different Customs, Different Stories
Here’s another story of a bridenapping; Babayarova’s tale just goes to show how prevalent it actually is. On the one hand, the lowest of the low, terrorists, kidnap their brides, and on the other hand you’ve got educated people doing the same thing. They’re educated, but they still believe it’s part of their custom, hence they think nothing of snatching away a future bride.
Ms. Babayarova was part of a pretty upper-class Kyrgyz community. She didn’t have any worries about money, job prospects, or anything like that. One morning, someone who she deemed to be her close friend, stopped off at her place with a friend to give her a lift to work. She thought nothing of it because they were close friends and were from the same community – he was a medical student no less. He basically told her she wasn’t going to work, took her to his village, and only let her leave when she announced to everybody present that she was going to marry him. What’s scary is that Ms. Babayarova’s parents had agreed to everything with the guy’s parents. So, she was stuck and didn’t feel she had any way out. Her hands were tied, so to speak.
5. Kidnappers Are Rarely Prosecuted
This is where things get kind of weird, it’s what makes us think that governments are turning a blind eye to bridenappings. To bring up that whole cultural tradition vs crime debate again, many people don’t report bridenappings. That could be due to any number of reasons, perhaps the families of the two parties are involved, but mainly because people deem it to be part of their culture, so they don’t see it as a crime and therefore don’t report it. But bridenapping is a crime, it’s actually a criminal offence that carries a three-year jail term in some countries – not anywhere near enough to deter people from carrying out the act, as I’m sure most of you would agree – but hardly anyone gets prosecuted. In fact, despite the massive number of bridenappings that take place – astonishingly a third of Kyrgyzstan women who are married are kidnapped brides – very few cases get brought forward. Even if they do, most just get away with a fine.
4. Men Are Often Of Lower Social Status
I mentioned in one of the stories how a woman who was from a wealthy, upper-class Kyrgyz community got kidnapped by a guy who was from the same community. That’s how it’s spread over the years, it’s spread to the point that even the upper-class are partaking in such acts. But the vast majority of those who kidnap their brides to be, remain men of a lower social status. It’s also yet another reason why bridenappings are hardly reported, or even taken that seriously. Women – who are often also from lower status groups – feel they can’t report the crime because they won’t be taken seriously, and quite often, depending where they’re from of course, they’ll be right. That’s because where most of these women are from it’s also just a generally accepted thing. So, they know it’s wrong, but can’t really do anything about it, because they’re the only ones feeling that way.
3. The Reasons Behind Bridenappings
Ok, so we’ve established that many people kidnap women and force them into marriage because of what they deem to be some twisted form of tradition. But what are the actual reasons behind bridenappings?
Sure, they’ll be some who snatch away women because they simply want to adhere to some twisted form of their tradition. But that’s certainly not the only reason. A survey conducted by the NGO Open Line found that for a very small percentage of people, economic gain was the reason for the bridenappings. After being kidnapped, the dowry is reduced significantly. A quarter of the 268 people surveyed said that it was simply because of love; they fell in love straight away and wanted to marry, a love at first sight kind of thing. There was a quarter who said the reason was because they were scared of getting rejected, and so they decided to give the women no say in the matter, therefore no chance of rejection, by kidnapping them. Astonishingly, around 22% of the men said they kidnapped brides simply because of a bet they had with a friend. That’s one seriously messed up way of thinking – it’s scary that so many people bridenap for that reason.
2. Snatched Brides Should Consider It “An Honor”
Women should consider it an honor to be kidnapped and forced into marriage. Really? Yes, really, according to some people anyway. It really does sound ridiculous, but that is honestly the case, it is seriously some people’s way of thinking. Their twisted perception of marriage, is that a woman is more worthy of being a wife if she’s kidnapped. She should be honored if she’s chosen and snatched away, because it would mean that the man’s gone to great lengths to seek her out, to make the arrangements to kidnap her and marry her. That may be partly the reason why it’s so prevalent – in a really twisted kind of way, the man thinks that what he’s doing is kind of a compliment to the woman, that she’s worthy of being his wife. Well, the women whose lives are ruined forever certainly don’t think so, and they’re certainly not overcome with gratitude for their captors.
1. The UN Knows All About Bridenappings
The United Nations knows all about bridenappings, and understandably, the UN is not pleased. It knows that in certain nations it’s deemed to be traditional and so not a whole lot is being done about trying to stamp it out. But the UN’s stance on bridenappings is clear; it’s a practice that needs to be eradicated. But that’s easier said than done, it’s going to be pretty tough to change people’s way of thinking. Baby steps, that’s where it’s at, but it’s already made a pretty big difference to a lot of people. The UN Trust Fund has given grants to fund various programmes, such as the National Federation of Female Communities of Kyrgyzstan (NFFCK). It’s actually a class, part of the curriculum in certain regions, so people learn about the wrongs and the implications of bridenappings from an early age. The programme’s run and managed by UN women, and a lot of these women know first-hand what it’s like to be kidnapped and forced into marriage.
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