This project will empower girls in two villages in Kyrgyzstan (500 girls) to protect themselves from "bride kidnapping" -- a tradition of kidnapping girls and forcing them into marriage. Entire villages -- girls and boys, parents, and teachers -- will learn to use the law to understand their rights, protect themselves, and ensure that kidnappers are prosecuted. Girls will be able to attend school without the fear of abduction, and parents will not pursue child marriage to avoid kidnapping.
12,000 girls in Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped annually for forced marriages. Once a girl is kidnapped, she is no longer considered "pure" and becomes unmarriageable, making it shameful to return home. Victims have no choice but to stay with their kidnappers. These marriages are not officially registered, so if the marriage ends, the wife has little chance of keeping any property or custody of the children. Fear of kidnapping keeps girls from school; others enter child marriages to prevent abduction.
We are working with a young Kyrgyz attorney to help end the practice of "kyz ala kachuu." ("Grab a girl and run") Since neither the formal justice system nor local rqsaqal courts (councils of male elders) take these cases seriously, this program will help to educate girls and communities about the laws, girl's rights, and how to prevent this harmful practice and prosecute kidnappers. This project idea won the World Justice Challenge award, chosen by justice advocates from around the world.
Bride kidnapping is illegal, but rarely prosecuted due to lack of education about the law, outdated cultural practices, and weak regulatory enforcement This project will use specifically designed curriculum and real cases to educate girls, boys, schools, parents, religious organizations and police officers about girls' rights. Local media will help broadcast educational information. Together, this will alter social norms and bring justice for girls in Kyrgyzstan.