|Bride Kidnapping and the Role of Women in Kyrgyzstan
Target Grade Levels:
Human Characteristics of Place, Tradition, Role of Women, Human Rights, Peer Pressure
Relevant National Standards
Ties to Literature
Have students write in their journal for five minutes about if they think they will marry. If not, why not? If so, how do they think they will meet the person they will someday marry? When the five minutes are up, ask for volunteers to share their ideas. Ask students what factors are important when choosing a spouse. How important is love when choosing the person to marry? In the discussion, point out that culture plays a key role in how families are formed and in the roles that are played by men and women.
Show students where Kyrgyzstan is on a map. Using Facts & Stats for Kyrgyzstan
as a reference, share a few details about the country's economy, land and people. Don't mention anything about bride kidnapping yet!
Next, explain to students that you want to invite them to a Kyrgyzstan wedding, then show them the video "Kyrgyzstan: The Kidnapped Bride" (about 17 minutes). (Note: This story can be viewed online in its entirety. A free transcript is also available to assist with planning. Please see the Related Story box at left for details.) To focus students' viewing, ask them to take notes on male and female roles in Kyrgyzstan society, especially as they relate to family life.
After the video, tell students that according to estimates, up to a third of all ethnic Kyrgyz women in Kyrgyzstan may have been wedded in nonconsensual bride kidnappings. Then discuss the following topics:
Conclude the activity by having students write a pretend letter to a peer (male or female) in Kyrgyzstan that discusses the similarities and differences between U.S. and Kyrgyz courtship and wedding traditions.
- What does the practice of bride kidnapping tell us about Kyrgyzstan culture? What do U.S. courtship and wedding traditions tell the world about American culture? What are the similarities and differences?
- What power do culture and tradition have in the persistence of bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan? What geographic, social and economic conditions influence this practice? What would need to change about Kyrgyzstan culture for this practice to stop? How might globalization and increased contact with other culture groups impact the bride kidnapping ritual? Is it likely that this tradition will continue in the next generation? Why or why not?
- How did various women shown in the video respond to the practice of bride kidnapping? Be sure to discuss the behaviors of the potential brides, the mothers of the potential brides and the women in the potential groom's family. Why did some women support and others reject the practice of bride kidnapping? Do kidnapped brides in Kyrgyzstan who accept the wedding scarf truly consent to the marriage? Why or why not?
- What role does peer pressure play in the tradition of bride kidnapping, for both the bride and groom? How do family wants and needs affect decisions that individuals make? What happens to the kidnapped brides who refuse to go along with the wedding? Closer to home, how does peer pressure influence the decisions that students make in their lives?
- What is the impact of bride kidnapping on the brides themselves? How is the bride's identity and future determined by the experience of being kidnapped? How might students respond in a stressful situation that involves a decision with lifelong consequences?
- Should bride kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan be considered a human rights violation or a complex cultural tradition that Westerners simply don't understand? (To help stimulate discussion on this question, select a few quotes made by FRONTLINE/World viewers, who spoke out on both of these perspectives in this story's "React" conversation at
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Expand class discussion on the role of women by exploring these related FRONTLINE/World stories:
China: Shanghai Nights
Tour Shanghai with controversial novelist Mian Mian, whose writing pushes the limits of Chinese culture and her government.
India: The Sex Workers
Learn how sex workers in India struggle to improve their conditions and safeguard their health.
Kenya: Run Lornah Run
Explore the traditional role of women in Kenya and find out how female long-distance runners are challenging the norm.
Nepal: Dreams of Chomolongma
Follow the stories of Sherpa women who scale Mt. Everest and are changing the role of women in Nepal.
Nigeria: The Road North
Chronicle the troubles of the Miss World pageant, read the reflections of five different Nigerian women on the challenges women face there, and watch a case study on women's rights and sharia law, as experienced by Amina Lawal.
The Women's Kingdom (from FRONTLINE/World's 'Rough Cut' series)
Learn about the matriarchal Mosuo society in China, one of the last in the world.
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Relevant National Standards
These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning) at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/.
Standard 1: Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity and behavior
Level III, Benchmark 5
Understands that various factors (e.g., wants and needs, talents, interests, influence of family and peers and media) affect decisions that individuals make
Standard 4: Understands the physical and human characteristics of place
Benchmark 1. Knows the human characteristics of places (e.g., cultural characteristics such as religion, language, politics, technology, family structure, gender; population characteristics; land uses; levels of development)
Standard 2: Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health
Level III, Benchmark 4
Understands how peer relationships affect health (e.g., name calling, prejudice, exclusiveness, discrimination, risk-taking behaviors)
Self-Regulation, Standard 3: Considers risks
Level IV, Benchmark 1
Weighs risks in making decisions and solving problems
Level IV, Benchmark 6
Thinks clearly under stress
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