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GENEVA (18 September 2018) — Women in Kyrgyzstan suffer grave and systematic violations of their human rights due to a culture of abduction, rape and forced marriage, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women found in an inquiry published today into so-called “bride kidnapping” in the country.

The full report may be found here.

The confidential inquiry was carried out by two designated members of the Committee, Lia Nadaraia and the lateTheodora Oby Nwankwo, after the Committee received allegations from 14 organizations alleging Kyrgyzstan had committed grave and systematic violations of human rights due to its failure to protect and assist victims and to prosecute and adequately punish perpetrators of “bride kidnapping.”

From 13 to 19 December 2016,  Nadaraia and Nwankwo met in Kyrgyzstan with senior government officials, civil society organizations, academics, religious leaders and dozens of victims of “bride kidnapping,” as the practice is known, in the capital Bishkek, and in the cities of Osh and Karakol. In their report, they note that while the scenarios of “bride kidnapping” vary, there is one recurrent pattern: “a perpetrator or his parents choose a victim, who is abducted, usually with the help of family members or friends. She is brought by force to the house of the kidnapper’s parents, where preparations for a traditional wedding ceremony are already underway. (…) As soon as the victim’s or her parents’ consent has been obtained, the perpetrator’s family celebrates the religious wedding ceremony, regularly followed by rape during the night following the ceremony.”

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“We cannot believe that women consent to entering into marriage in the circumstances that surround “bride kidnapping,” such as sexual violence, pressure by the kidnapper and his family, and stigmatization of women escaping such forced unions,” said Nadaraia. The situation of the victims is further aggravated by the barriers they face in seeking access to justice, including legal illiteracy and bias on the part of the authorities, she added.

The Committee called on Kyrgyzstan to strengthen its legislation and law enforcement, in particular by preventing, investigating, punishing and providing reparation for all crimes of abduction and related sexual violence. The Committee also called on Kyrgyzstan to support and assist victims, and to report back to the Committee in March 2019 with data on the extent of the practice.

“Abduction of girls and women for child- or forced marriage should not be accepted as a cultural tradition, but must be prosecuted and punished as a crime that regularly involves rape of the victim,” said Nadaraia.