Even though she was kidnapped, pressured into marrying a man from a nearby village, and then abandoned without means to sustain herself and the couple’s two young children, Totugul can’t rely on Kyrgyzstan’s courts for help.
Totugul’s story is common in Kyrgyzstan, especially in rural areas. Human rights lawyers say Kyrgyzstan’s legal code does little to protect victims of bride kidnapping. It is a practice in Kyrgyzstan that offers a socially acceptable way for couples to marry without parental consent. There are, however, criminal cases like Totugul’s that involve the forcible abduction of women followed by intense psychological and cultural pressure to marry.
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Azita Ranjbar is the author of a forthcoming report, “The Declining Use of Aksakal Courts in Kyrgyzstan,” to be released May 7 by the Eurasia Foundation. The report will be available at equalbeforethelaw.org.