Kyrgyzstan has been in the news this month. Its government has been toppled in a coup that has left over 70 people dead, and there is much uncertainty about the political future in the capital, Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful mountainous country in Central Asia struggling to escape the legacy of Communism and to generate work and prosperity for its 5 million inhabitants. A new church has grown up over the past twenty years in this predominantly Muslim nation.
Life for the ordinary person in Kyrgyzstan is tough. But life for many women is even tougher, with high levels of bride kidnapping and domestic violence. Bride kidnapping is estimated to affect up to half of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan and of these two thirds of kidnappings are non-consensual (1). Women are often abducted by car, taken to the prospective husband’s home and urged to accept the marriage, sometimes under duress. Even if they escape, they can face significant stigma back in their own communities.
On 8 March 2010, International Women’s Day, the BBC website featured the stories of five Kyrgyz women who are highly vulnerable to economic and physical abuse:
There is some possibility that the next president of Kyrgyzstan will be a woman. If so, she will be the first female leader of a country in Central Asia. The time is long overdue for the abuse of women in Kyrgyzstan to be addressed. Does the new Government provide an opportunity for this? And can the young church model a better way building and sustaining healthy relationships within the Christian community?
(1) Kleinbach & Salimjanova, Kyz ala kachuu and adat: Non-consensual bride kidnapping and tradition in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asian Survey, (June 2007) 26:2, 217 - 233.