What is Ala Kachuu?
Ala Kachuu is a form of bride kidnapping that is largely non consensual and often involves the violent mistreatment and rape of women. This practice stems from a romantic traditions in Central Asia where the prospective groom 'kidnaps' the prospective bride from her home so that he can marry her or a form of elopment of a consenting couple.
As is inevitable, most of these marriages end up in domestic violence, repeated rape, forced abortions and eventually broken families. The remnants and the worst affected are of course the women who cannot return to their home. Even when sex does not take place, once a woman has been kept overnight, even for a single night, her virginity is put in doubt in her community.
With her honour disgraced, the woman will have very few other options for marriage. Thus, after one night of capture, she is culturally compelled to marry the man who kidnapped her. Such immense social stigma is attached to a refusal to marry after being kidnap that the victim usually feels that she has no choice but to agree, and some of those who refuse even commit suicide after the kidnapping.
Studies, by researcher Russell Kleinbach, have found that although bride kidnapping is illegal in Kyrgyzstan, an estimated 50% of marriages in the country are the result of Ala Kachuu, and around two-thirds of these are non-consensual kidnappings, with Uighur women most vulnerable to it.
Who is affected by Ala Kachuu?
Initially our research on Ala Kachuu led us to believe this practice is prevalent amongst the Uighur people but after our first visit to the region, we came to learn that women across Central Asia are also affected by forms of bride kidnapping.
What have we done so far?
Soon after Restless Beings attained NGO status in Kyrgyzstan, we partnered with another local NGO in Bishkek, called Sezim in 2011. Together, with your help we are ensuring that victims of Ala Kachuu have a safe refuge centre and home.
At the moment our project focuses on three main areas:
- Providing support/counseling to Ala-Kachuu victims through a helpline
- On-going support in our transit home and centre for displaced women
- Educational outreach programmes for long term alleviation of non consensual Ala Kachuu.
Legal and social development?
January 2013, President Almazbek Atambayev approved the passing of a new law, increasing the maximum prison sentence for bride-kidnapping from three to seven years. Kidnappers who have abducted girls under the age of 17, which is the minimum legal age for marriage,can now face a punishment of up to ten years in prison. This is a significant development in that prior to this the sentence for stealing livestock was considerably more than that for Ala Kachuu. It is now even more important that integral outreach work in schools and universities and the rural areas is undertaken to ensure social awareness of the illegality of Ala Kachuu and malign influence on women.
Our continued work
To continue focusing on Ala Kachuu localised and centralised in Kyrgyzstan through our refuge centre and home, but to also look at other parts of the world to combat forms of bride kidnapping.
- To continue research on Ala Kachuu in Kyrgyzstan and around Central Asia.
- To raise awareness of Ala Kachuu and combat it's practice.
- To build a network nationally in Kyrgyzstan and internationally, to enable and facilitate a counselling service for women using support from other countries.
- To evaluate the impact of our work and undertake field research.