In a new report from Tajikistan, journalist Fayzia Ahmadova reports that the practice of a man kidnapping the woman he wants to marry is catching on among Tajiks.
Although prevalent in parts of Central Asia and stemming from a long nomadic tradition in which a prospective groom avoids paying a marriage price, kidnapping a bride is nevertheless illegal and has previously existed mainly among ethnic Kyrgyzs and Kazaks.
But now, according to a resident of the Jirgatal district in Tajikistan, Tajiks have begun to think, “If the Kyrgyz in neighboring villages kidnap their brides, then why can’t we?”
A travel advisory by the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated last month warns visitors to Tajikistan that the office believes there is a threat of kidnapping in the country.
“Our neighbor was abducted on her wedding day by the guy who was in love with her,” another resident, Qaisiddin, told Ahmadova . “No one knows where he took her.”
Although Qaisiddin says kidnappings in Tajikistan have always been always consensual, Ahmadova points out that in Kyrgyzstan, the “tradition has become distorted so that young women are sometimes kidnapped off the street by complete strangers, held against their will, and coerced into marriage as the least shameful option left to the woman.”
Mahmadullo Asadulloev, spokesman for the interior ministry in the capital Dushanbe, told Ahmadova his office had not been informed of any kidnappings for marriage. But Ahmadova points out that parents often don’t report the cases because of the shame it could cause their family.
In a 2009 report on domestic violence in Tajikistan, Amnesty International found that Tajik police and other authorities often condone violence and discrimination against women, or say it should be resolved within the family.
The report also found that many Tajik girls are married off under-age, are one of multiple wives, or are treated as servants in their husbands’ homes. At the time of the report, there was only one shelter for at-risk women in the entire country and Tajik officials did not compile comprehensive data on the issue.
When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Tajikistan in late October, she warned the country that its human rights violations were immoral and harmful to the countries’ safety.