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Noriko UnholyMatrimony 001

In Kyrgyzstan, as many as 40% of ethnic Kyrgyz women are thought to be the result of Ala Kachuu (“grab and run”), or bride kidnapping. According to a local NGO, about 15,000 women, usually below the age of 25, are kidnapped every year to become brides. 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. 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 to no longer be pure, making it “shameful” for her to return home. Therefore, in order to avoid scandal, a negative reputation among neighbors, cursing from the kidnapper’s family and disgrace, they tend to remain with their kidnappers.

I visited Kyrgyzstan for the first time in 2012 and have spent five months visiting villages throughout the country to explore the issue and tell the story of mainly 4 women who had been kidnapped: Fardia, a 20 year old woman who was kidnapped but resisted and ended up being rescued by her brother from her suitor's family; Cholpon, Aitilek and Dinara, three women who were kidnapped and, for one reason or another, decided to give in and get married. In January 2014, I went back to Kyrgyzstan for a month to follow up on the women I photographed before. Pictures I took are just a piece of their lives.

Noriko Hayashi (b.1983) is a Japanese photographer focusing on social issue and human conditions in different parts of the world.
Her work has been recognized with awards including the 1st prize of NPPA Best of Photojournalism in contemporary issue stories 2014, the Visa d’Or feature award at the Visa Pour I’image 2013 in France, the 1st prize of DAYS JAPAN international Photojournalism award in 2012. Noriko’s works have been published internationally such as The Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Der Spiegel, National Geographic Japan, Marie Claire UK and Russia, Le Monde and Newsweek, DAYS JAPAN.

Website: norikohayashi.com

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