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When traditions violate human rights: bride kidnapping in Kazakhstan 24 января 2014, 19:05

Members of the Lower Chamber of the Kazakhstan Parliament are considering toughening of the punishment for bride kidnapping in Kazakhstan.
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Photo courtesy of time.kz Photo courtesy of time.kz
Is bride kidnapping a violation of human rights or an old tradition? The members of the Majilis (Lower Chamber of the Parliament) have discussed toughening the punishment for bride kidnapping in Kazakhstan, Tengrinews reports. During the discussion of the criminal code amendments, the question of bride kidnapping was raised again. The opinions of the lawmakers differed. “The violation of human rights by kidnapping and detention against one’s will is the key issue. The intentions do not matter; be it for exploitation, for violence, for marriage or for any other things. When human rights are violated, a harsh punishment must follow. A person might be having her own plans for work, school or any other things when she is suddenly kidnapped. Who and on what grounds has a right to do so? Only penalties can stop the kidnappings. (…) Kidnapping a person for an hour, a minute or for their whole life is worth an executed,” Kamal Burkhanov of the Mazhilis said. “God created human beings and no one is entitled to kidnap a human being no matter what benevolent intentions he may have. I believe it should be severely punished. Of course, we do not have a death penalty, but probably we should,” he added. Lawmaker, Svetlana Romanovskaya agreed with her colleague and said that bride kidnapping, especially among underage girls is a big problem in Kazakhstan. Referred to the UN data for 2011 she said that early marriages made up 7%, which means 31,433 women got married before turning 18. Early marriage and bride kidnapping is especially widely spread in South Kazakhstan. The Ministry of Health reports 23.5% of expecting mothers out of 100 thousand are underaged. “Until 1998 the criminal code had a special article that regulated this issue. Later, the punished was considered insufficient and woman kidnapping for forced marriage started to be qualified as general kidnapping. The problem here lies in the fact that a girl has to report to the police herself. Of course the girls were scared and as a result there were no criminal cases opened. Now is the time to make necessary amendments,” Romanovskaya told the journalist at the sidelines of the meeting. “If needed we will open a special chapter for underage girls. It is a very serious problem that requires serious punishment,” said the lawmaker. According to her, 15 years of imprisonment is a just punishment for bride kidnapping and general person kidnapping. Romanovskaya brought up Kyrgyzstan where amendments were made to the criminal code. Now a criminal case can be opened not only on the girl’s initiative, but also by law enforcement authorities. Kairat Suleimenov did not agree with his colleagues. He reminded the Parliament that bride kidnapping is an old tradition. “Kidnapping a women for marriage falls under the article 125 and is considered a dangerous crime connected with organized crime and terrorism (…) But here we have a person who wants to get married and has totally different intentions. It has been a national tradition for centuries. I’m not justifying those kidnappers. But 90 percent of those girls are ready to get married, and the ritual just has a ceremonial spirit,” Suleimenov said. He added that if the need for it is so great, a separate wording clearly specifying the component elements of the crime should be introduced into the criminal code. In return, Romanovskaya accused Suleimenov of viewing the situation from the male point of view. “The was this amendment is worded, it cannot be passed into the law. In addition, the punishment must be reconsidered as well,” the First Deputy Prosecutor General Iogan Merkel said. He added that 15 years of imprisonment as a punishment for bride kidnapping was inappropriate. An old tradition or not, but bride kidnappings, and in many cases against the girl’s will, still take place and are a reality for many young Kazakh women.

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