Bishkek, 21 February 2022 (TDI): Kyrgyzstan is attempting to end child marriage and “bride snatching.” Despite the fact that “bride kidnapping” and “child marriage” are prohibited in Kyrgyzstan, they persist in certain locations.

UN-supported program is bringing about changes in attitudes and behaviors. According to official government figures, approximately 500 Kyrgyz girls between the ages of 13 and 17 give birth to children each year.

In Kyrgyzstan, a practice called “ala kachuu,” which translates as “pick up and flee abroad,” continues to pose a threat to young women.  Alternatively, they are kidnapped and coerced into marriage.

According to Psychologist Byubyusara Ryskulova, who is also the Director of Kyrgyzstan’s first crisis center, Sezim (which means “trust” in Kyrgyz), prior marriages continue to be a contentious subject in Kyrgyzstan.

Sezim was founded 25 years ago to protect the rights of women and girls who face adversity.  It gives women and girls who are in need of emergency housing, the right help, and psychological support.

Over the course of 25 years, the hotline has received over 45,000 calls from women seeking legal or psychiatric aid. Due to the growing impact of religion and poverty, rural residents are more prone to continuing these traditions.

Marriage is lawful until the age of 18, and kidnapping young women is a felony. Regrettably, these regulations are not followed. A religious ceremony known as “nikah,” which is held in a mosque rather than a civil marriage, is gaining popularity.

Village houses no longer have seven or eight children, but parents still face difficulties raising four or five children.  Many of them desire that their daughters marry into more prosperous families.

Generally, “everything is conducted secretly between the parties.” Even though women frequently accept domestic abuse, when they can no longer bear it, they come to authorities for assistance.

In other words, Ryskulova says that they were “kidnapped, forced to marry, and married in secret” when they were married at the time.

Incomprehension of the laws

Couples under the age of 18 risks a maximum five-year prison sentence for completing the “nikah” ceremony in a mosque. The maximum penalty for bride kidnapping is ten years in prison.

However, prosecution of all parties to such an “agreement” is highly uncommon. While it is simple to write legislation, Ryskulova explains that it must also be implemented. At the moment, they are investigating eight rape instances involving minor girls.

Almost all incidences occur in the southern regions of Osh, Jalalabad, and Batken, which all have sizable conservative populations.  Darika Asylbekova, the head of Osh’s crisis centre, said that more people are having premarital relationships.

The crisis center in Osh is called Ak Zhurok (Pure Heart). “Parents begin marrying their daughters in ninth grade.” When their daughters leave high school and move to the city, their parents worry that they will become “spoiled,” which will make them unable to get married or have children.

Girls are unable to attend school because they are too preoccupied with family responsibilities. They are then entrusted with pregnancy and childrearing responsibilities.

They are unable to attend school or pursue careers, leaving them fully dependent on their husbands as housewives. This year alone, Ak Zhurok received over 1,500 inquiries from young women in need of assistance.

They need more than a place to stay while they look for work, divide their assets, and get alimony, as people who aren’t legally married usually don’t get anything.

Nevertheless, even in the Deep South, people’s perceptions are shifting. There are 154 divorces for every 1,000 weddings in rural areas, whereas the ratio is 2.4 times greater in cities.

Aigerim Almanbetova, the blogger behind “A Girl’s Dream,” is a 24-year-old Kyrgyz woman who tries to understand what her classmates go through. “In my opinion, family upbringing, in addition to religion, is another factor for early marriages.

When it comes to marriage, it is believed that a female should marry promptly due to her status as an old maid. Women have been subjected to a great deal of stress and worry since they were infants.

A woman reportedly stated that “girls are regularly informed that they will live with their spouses, that they must build a family, and that they must bear children,” a woman reportedly stated. “How can she be expected to pay for her school in this situation?”

Many of them, she says, are compelled to remain in violent marriages by a cultural sense of shame.  According to the blogger, Kyrgyz culture has been long overdue for a paradigm shift in how men are raised, and that shift should begin in childhood.

The UN’s involvement has resulted in a drop in the number of instances. With the help of international organizations, the number of early marriages has dropped recently because of the work of NGOs and government agencies.

The EU and the UN launched a multiyear country project in Kyrgyzstan in January 2020 as part of the global Spotlight Initiative to end all kinds of violence against women and girls.

One of the main goals of the initiative is to improve institutions, protect women’s rights, and collect high-quality data to support these goals.

Almanbetova, a powerful woman in Kyrgyzstan, believes this is the country’s best course of action: “I am not averse to raising a family and dreaming about it.”

It is critical, however, that the girl initiates the approach rather than her parents. There are no longer any justifications for women being treated as second-class citizens.  This has become a significant impediment to the growth of our society.