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Number 1 Shimbun

Photo Exhibition: Unholy Matrimony - Bride Kidnapping

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ACCORDING TO A LOCAL NGO in Kyrgystan, as many as 40 percent of ethnic brides – or about 15,000 a year – are thought to be victims of bride kidnapping, or ala kachuu, “grab and run.” The authorities largely turn a blind eye to the practice, although in January 2013, the Kyrgystan president signed into law an increase in jail time for abductors from three years to seven-to-ten years.

There is also some confusion about the definition of “kidnapping,” as some young couples elope by acting out a kidnapping scenario; then get their parents to retroactively sanction their marriage. It is clear, however, that a majority of the abductions occur against the women’s will.

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Unsuspecting women are often dragged off the street and taken straight to the man’s house. Female elders often play a pivotal role in persuading the bride to accept the marriage by covering the girl’s head with a white scarf, symbolizing her readiness to marry her kidnapper.

I visited Kyrgystan for the first time in 2012, and spent five months visiting villages, exploring the kidnapping issue and photographing four women who had been kidnapped. Fardia was a 20-year-old who resisted, and ended up being rescued by her brother. Cholpon, Aitilek and Dinara were three women who, for one reason or another, decided to give in and marry their abductors. I returned for a month of photography in January 2014, catching up on their stories. My pictures are just a piece of their lives.

Photographer Noriko Hayashi focuses on social issues around the world. She began taking pictures for a local newspaper in The Gambia in 2007, when she was a student of international relations and conflict studies; now her photography is published internationally

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Published in: June

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