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Noriko Hayashi February 10, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Kyrgyzstan.

Bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan. 2013

Noriko Hayashi (b.1983, Japan) began taking pictures for a small local newspaper in Gambia, West Africa, when she was still a university student in International Relations. Working in a small place like Gambia, which is rarely the focus of international news but is full of interesting stories, taught Noriko the value of covering the overlooked realities of every strand of society. She won the first prize in 2012 DAYS International Photojournalism Awards and was awarded three Kiyosato’s Young Portfolio Acquisitions Awards (2010, 2011, 2012). Noriko was also finalist for the Alexia foundation professional grant. In 2013, she won The Visa D’or feature awards at Visa Pour l’Image festival in France. Her work has been published in the International Herald Tribune, National Geographic Japan, Newsweek, Der Spiegel and Le Monde among others. Noriko is currently based in Tokyo.

About the Photograph:

I spent five months visiting villages throughout Kyrgyzstan and sometimes I was able to witness the practice. According to local NGO’s, as many as 40% of ethnic Kyrgyz women are married by the process of ala kachuu (‘grab and run’) or bride kidnapping. Though illegal since 1994, the authorities largely turn a blind eye to the practice. Most commonly, the putative groom will gather a group of young men and charter a car to go and look for the woman he wants to marry. Unsuspecting women are then often dragged off the street and bundled into the car which takes them straight to the man’s house where frequently the family will have already started to make preparations for the wedding.”

“Once girls are taken inside the kidnapper’s home, female elders play a pivotal role in persuading her to accept the marriage. They try to cover the girl’s head with a white scarf, symbolizing that she is ready to marry her kidnapper. After several hours of struggle, around 84% of kidnapped women end up agreeing to the marriage. Their parents often also pressure the girls, as once she has entered her kidnappers home she is considered no longer pure, making it shameful for her to return home. To avoid scandal and disgrace they tend to remain with their kidnappers. 

Prior to the Soviet period when the people were living a nomadic life, the majority of the marriages were arranged by parents. Although non-consensual bride-kidnapping occurred rarely, it was not common and was not socially accepted. Marriages resulting from bride kidnapping are also thought to result in significantly higher rates of domestic abuse and divorce and numerous cases of suicide amongst women who were kidnapped have been recorded.”

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