In Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous and impoverished Central Asian country, up to three-quarters of marriages result from bride kidnapping. Typically, a single young man chooses the woman he wants to marry and then plots her abduction. With the help of friends, he carries her off to his parents’ home, where the women in his family pressure the girl to consent to marriage. It’s officially illegal, but rarely is anyone prosecuted. Once a predominantly rural phenomenon, it is becoming more common in larger cities. Some men wish to avoid paying expensive dowries. Others simply fear rejection. Opposition to bride kidnapping is growing, though, after two kidnapped brides committed suicide last year. There has been at least one public demonstration against the tradition, and now new legislation is working its way through parliament that would increase the potential punishment for kidnapping girls under the age of 17 to 10 years in jail.
That’s more than triple the current maximum legislated punishment—though as noted by Radio Free Europe, which has investigated the practice, it’s still a lesser sentence than one might face in Kyrgyzstan for stealing a cow.