Bride kidnapping is a centuries-old tradition that occurs all over the world, but is most common in Central Asian countries like Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
When a man wants to marry a woman, he and his friends or relatives will go abduct her, usually as she is walking alongside the road. She is taken to the man’s house and prepared for the wedding, usually occurring that same day or within a few days.
In some cases, this is “consensual” – the woman has agreed to the marriage and goes along with the practice. But in most cases it’s not – the woman is abducted against her will and forced into marriage. Her family, village, and village elders will attend the wedding and pressure her into accepting the marriage.
Though bride kidnapping is illegal in both Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, it still occurs and the law is rarely enforced. There are about 12,000 kidnappings in Kyrgyzstan each year – half of all marriages. Unfortunately, this rate is increasing. Up to 75% of these kidnappings are non-consensual. However, it’s likely that this number is higher as many women don’t report it out of fear.
Bride kidnappings cause obvious physical and mental harm to women, and often result in rape and long-term domestic abuse.
It’s in these dark and damaging societal practices that the light of Jesus is needed more than ever. Guidelines devotionals are helping to reshape this culture by teaching the Biblical values of marriage, family, and respect. And for women, our devotionals let them know that God sees their pain, loves them deeply, and is able to heal.
In Kyrgyzstan, we received this response from Masuda, one of our listeners:
“I was kidnapped into marriage when I was 23. It was a nightmare. My parents along with the police got me out of that situation.”
Masuda, like many other women in Kyrgyzstan, went through a horrific experience. She continues to explain how that left a lasting mental and emotional scar:
“However, even now, 10 years later, I just hate all men. Men think that with violence they could achieve happiness. It never works. How in the world can I ever become normal again?”
It’s heartbreaking to hear how this experience has affected her, but it’s impossible to blame her. She knows she will never be the same again. What’s truly tragic, though, is that she feels broken and beyond healing.
Masuda has been listening to our radio programs and learning about hope in God:
“You are talking in your broadcast about hope with God in all situations. Are those just words? Is there really hope for people like myself?”
She finds the hope of Jesus to be appealing, but is struggling to believe it.
Masuda needs to continue hearing the voice of God through our devotional programs so it can sink deep into her soul. We need to pray for Masuda to open up her heart and let God heal her and restore her. And we need to continue broadcasting the message of Jesus so other women who have been hurt can find healing, and so that the culture of Kyrgyzstan will change to honor women.