Read through archived FRONTLINE/World
conversations around this story, including responses from
Anonymous - New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Thank you for giving another point of view. I too reacted
the same way as Rahul Mehta, and this is the first time
I ever watched your program. The thought of someone kidnapping
their bride has been disturbing me ever since I saw this
segment on your documentary. But, you are right, those abused
tend to become abusers. And, I've seen firsthand how some
women in abusive relationships do not avail themselves of
the opportunity to leave the relationship when given the
opportunity. That happens all the time in this country.
I am just trying to sort out what is going on with the women
there in Kyrgystan and come to grips with it in my own mind.
Casey Keenan - Somerset, Virginia
There are a lot of comments on this page that seem to me
to be missing the scope of the problem. I am blessed with
four daughters. [S]omeone would have to kidnap one of my
daughters over my dead body. That's how most Americans would
feel. So where was the girls family? [They are] in on it,
the whole neighborhood seems to be in on it. There are probably
bedtime stories told to them as little girls about it. It
is a deeply rooted tradition, and we know about it because
we live in an age where there are thousands of reporters
all over the world, sticking their noses into everybody's
business. But it is not our responsibility to fix it so
that it reflects our traditions. It is a big strange world
out there and it will be a long time before they all think
like us. Just eighty years ago women could not vote in America.
Just forty years ago American society was a lot different
than it is today. Societies take time to evolve. What bothers
me is that we think that the rest of the world should think
the same way we do. Are we really any better than they are,
safer, happier? I know we think we are, but do they? ...
Anonymous - Penn Valley, California
Thank you for your attention to this practice and this country.
Our daughter is one of about 120 Peace Corps volunteers
serving in Kyrgyzstan; of all the 'cultural differences'
she has experienced there, this is the one that troubles
her most. She seems to feel that educating women, and trying
to expand opportunities for all Kyrgyz, is a positive (but
slow) way to help.
Anna Nkebukwa - Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Bride kidnapping dehumanizes the victims. [I]t is a gross
breach of human rights and is offensive to all, who, like
me, have had close experience of this dirty custom. A sweet
fifteen-year old daughter of my close relative was kidnapped
by an HIV positive man who died six months after the kidnap,
leaving her being HIV positive. During the six months she
lived with him she had to provide care for him, since, by
tradition, she was considered to be his wife. The kidnapping
of girls by HIV positive men sometimes is triggered by the
traditional requirement in that part of Tanzania that it
is shameful for a man to die a bachelor. They used even
to bury him in a degrading way to symbolize that he died
a bachelor. The practice of kidnapping girls is now fading
away but when it happens, it leaves mothers devastated,
it is as if your intestines are being torn out without any
anesthesia. So whether you are a parent or not, you have
sisters whom you love dearly or not, as long as you are
human, you should consider it incumbent upon you to fight
this deadly practice in any part of the world where it still
exists. We should fight poverty, ignorance and any factors
that expose our innocent daughters to such exploitative
inhumanity and their mothers to such heart-rending traditions.
Evil cannot just go away, we have to fight it.
Anonymous - Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
There are many 'bad' traditions, guarded by conservative
leaders and society at the cost of human lives. But the
world has learned to overcome these kinds of hardships to
make our life better. Human rights are and should be put
high above the traditional practices infringing rights.
However, there are so many colorful, inspiring, and educating
cultural traditions which should be defended and maintained.
Katherine - Georgia
What an incredible story. I find cultural differences in
societies fascinating, and try to view them impartially
(rather than through Western eyes). The bride kidnapping
tradition in Kyrgyzstan, however, was difficult to appreciate.
I echo the concerned sentiments of others here. It leaves
me to wonder, is Kyrgyzstan unique in this aspect? If they
consider themselves an Islamic nation, how do other Islamic
nations view this unconventional practice? I'd assume that
women's support options are scarce in that remote area,
but perhaps this show will serve as a first step to changing
that. Fantastic work, Frontline. I'd always been a passive
fan of the show, but this episode has converted me into
an avid supporter.
Naomi Willis - Gonzales, Louisiana
Thank you for creating a documentary that can be used for
education in the schools of Kyrgyzstan. My husband and I
visited Kyrgyzstan in 1998 while our son was serving in
the Peace Corps. The Kyrgyz people treated us with the greatest
of hospitality and kindness. The mountains are equally as
beautiful as our Tetons. Two exchange students have lived
with our family from Kyrgyzstan. One student was from Bishkek
and was not concerned about kidnapping but the other student
was from the village and feared kidnapping. Her sister had
been kidnapped and the marriage ended in divorce. Education
for young women that will empower them to stand up for themselves
is critical to change. Just because it is a tradition does
not mean it is the best solution for young women and men.
Also, informing young men is extremely important. It seemed
that bride kidnapping was "expected" of them. Thank you
for caring about people in our global world.
Daniel Murphy - Washington, D.C.
While I personally find this tradition of bride kidnapping
to be very unsettling, I think that we must not be so rash
in our reactions to it. This culture of whisking away a
bride is deeply engrained in the Kyrgyz culture and for
evidence of this, look no further than the fact that despite
years of Soviet / Communist subversion and terror, the custom
remains intact. While this particular sliver of Kyrgyz culture
is very offending to the Western palate, is it our place
to concern ourselves with it? Some may argue for international
condemnation or for some sort of action to be taken by someone,
but this is a cultural trait that has persisted for centuries
and one that is not easily broken. Instead of proselytizing
and acting morally superior, perhaps the world should sit
back and let things fall as they will. In time, hopefully
the economic and political situation of Kyrgyzstan will
improve to the point whereby the attraction of kidnapping
is no longer present. Furthermore, given the inevitability
of globalization, even in a provincial corner of the globe
such as Kyrgyzstan, maybe the Kyrgyz will alter their culture
on their own, as gender rights and feminist ideas filter
in. In any event, pushing the envelope rather than letting
the Kyrgyz people decide for themselves is surely not a
recipe for success in decreasing the incidence of bride
kidnapping. Besides, is the Western tradition and sanctity
of marriage so wonderful after all? With divorce rates at
all time highs and unhappy (voluntary) marriages seemingly
everywhere, maybe we should turn our ire inward. Although
the video footage of the kidnappings was shocking, seeing
the happy couple at the end meander off into the wondrous
scenery makes the issue far less black [and] white and really
led me to the conclusion that I know far too little about
the culture to be able to say anything with full faith and
Christina Nichol - Berkeley,
I find it very repugnant that we in the West are so comfortably
self-righteous about imposing our ideas of "romantic love"
onto a culture that is far more ancient and complex than
one hour can portray. I lived also in Kyrgyzstan and I find
it very disheartening that it was the theme of bride stealing
that was chosen as the means to portray one of the most
peaceful, hospitable, and non-polluting nations on the planet.
One wonders what would happen if a Kyrgyz were given a budget
and a film crew to document some of the extreme practices
of America. I am sure the results would be far more appalling.
It is interesting that the producer initially traveled to
Kyrgyzstan to study Muslim extremism, and unable, apparently,
to find enough of it, chose the next best sensational topic:
bride stealing - that which can so easily inflame every
Western romantic heart. It is an insidious practice to always
look for the extreme, especially if it involves a culture
that hardly anybody knows about yet. When I lived in Kyrgyzstan,
I became very close to a group of young men who were coming
of age during the Soviet collapse and, after watching enough
western TV, felt that they wanted to rebel the marriage
tradition of kidnapping. However, Krygzystan has no precedent
for dating. I fail to see how going to discos, getting drunk,
and finding a girl that way is so much more "moral," --
their only other alternative. As devout as this group of
young Kyrgyz men were to try to implement Western ideas
of romance into their notions of marriage, ultimately the
desires of their culture, family, and village, were more
powerful than their own individual whims, and they had to
relinquish their western fantasies and find a bride. I did
not witness in the film the amount of joy -- bashful, blushing
bride included -- that is typical at Kyrgyz weddings. This
is not to say that bride stealing does not have its tragedies,
but it is hardly a Westerner's right to judge. The last
remaining man in the village where I lived who refused to
kidnap a bride, was HIMSELF, physically FORCED by his family
to marry a woman; it is not a practice limited only to women.
It is based on a whole different set of standards necessary
for survival, and lacking knowledge of them, we have no
foundation to judge.
Richard Weinstock - Ventura, California
Great story, great job covering it! Best, you balanced the
outrage borne of the educated or informed middle-class people
who might watch Frontline with the views of people who live
in that culture and find the tradition appropriate.
Anonymous - Austin, Texas
The film may have been shocking for some only because it
was so visual. Look around, there is all kinds of "peer"
pressure put on women (and men in some cases) to marry,
or not marry the ones they like. I applaud the Krygz families
for opening their homes to the outside world. We need more
films like this on: arranged marriages, multiple women marriages
to the same man, genital mutilation, street crimes by children
from unhappy marriages, and the high rate of divorce even
when freedom of choice is employed. This pretty much sums
it up about marriage in 100% of the cultures world wide.
Rahul Iyer - Dixon, Illinois
I was lead to believe that for countries and societies
that were once classified (or still classified) as communist/socialist,
[they] had evolved to a point where the women had greater
equality then otherwise. Seeing this story on Kyrgyzstan,
a former communist country, makes one wonder. This is a
disturbing trend, though it may be part of "tradition"
and part of the newly found independence of these countries
Argyle Angooli - Ottawa, Ontario
This so called tradition of bride kidnapping is totally
repugnant to me. Just because it is a tradition or custom
doesn't mean it is acceptable. Do the men who have to rely
on kidnapping to gain a spouse, have no sense of worth of
themselves? If I was a man who had to resort to forcing
a woman to be my wife, I wouldn't have much of an opinion
of myself. These guys are reading too many romance novels.
Producer/Reporter Petr Lom responds:
You are right. The practice is wrong, and just because
it is a custom does not justify it. The real question
is how to try to transform it. One way to do that is to
try to understand why the men are kidnapping. One reason
is poverty in Kyrgyzstan: it is very expensive to marry.
If you kidnap, you avoid paying much of the bride price.
So it's not that the men "have no sense of worth," but
rather that often they don't have the money to marry.
Changing the custom of the bride price might be a way
to reduce kidnappings.
Erin - Worcester, Massachusetts
The comment about the Kyrgyz men reading too many romance
novels is perhaps the most ignorant thing I have ever
heard. Bride kidnapping is a deeply disturbing part of
these peoples culture and is not to be attributed to modern
day smut written by third class writers looking to make
a buck. Criticizing their "sense of worth" is not the
issue at hand and not a relevant argument if a human rights
issue such as this one is to be stopped. These men are
not "resorting" to kidnapping a wife, young men such as
Jumankul are under pressure to marry and it is embedded
into their minds that it is acceptable because it happened
to their mother and their grandmother and so on. Clearly,
women's rights are not being respected and it is a difficult
and time-consuming task to change the entire outlook of
a culture. A practice such as this one has deep roots
and its forms are present in our world today in many different
forms, from the outright kidnapping of a bride to the
symbolic presence of groomsmen in many weddings.
Julia Griner - Jersey City, New
I was fascinated and disturbed by the tradition of kidnapping
a bride. There is such a fine line here. On the whole, I
feel it is a violation of human rights, however in circumstances
where both parties know and agree that it will happen as
a symbolic gesture in the name of tradition, I have to feel
that it is something we in the West have no right to judge.
But like I said, it is a very fine line. Bravo for making
this available to the public.
Mary O'Brian - Las Vegas, Nevada
Great presentation of a touchy story. My favorite point
the story made was that besides showing the girls and women
crying and trying to escape it is...almost eerie how some
not only accepted their future but found some form of happiness
in it. I think I would bite any man or woman who tired to
force me to do such a thing...
It is interesting that this "tradition" of bride-kidnapping
first began with a man asking a father for permission to
race his daughter, who was given a fifteen second head start
and a whip to beat the guy off, now involves stalking women
on the streets and forcing them into cars. Seems a little
Meerim Kylychbekova - San Francisco,
I was very much looking forward to watching this story.
However, I have to admit, I am very disappointed. As someone
from this country (not to say it adds any additional validity
to my point, just a view of someone who looks at this issue
from within, not an outsider), I was sad to see how my people
are being portrayed. To all of you, educated, worldly, curious
citizens - of course this documentary is a personal view
of a Westerner, just an individual observation. But Kyrgyzstan
is still [a] very new, unknown, far away land. So with the
lack of information about this place, it becomes very easy
to make a generalization about the whole country just based
on ten-minute footage of one or two incidents. Bride kidnapping
does happen, and it should not be glorified, but should
not be completely invalidated either. The issue is extremely
complex! There are cultural, geopolitical and economic conditions
that have been influencing the social perception of this
phenomenon for centuries.
Rahul Mehta - Detroit, Michigan
This is the first time I watched Frontline on PBS and I
think I have missed lot of good things you people have shown
so far. Today's story literally shook me up. I come from
India a place where women are given lot of respect and dignity
and having seen what a woman has to go through in Kyrgystan
hurted deep down inside. Doesn't the man who kidnaps a bride
for himself has a sister and doesnt he thinks that can happen
to his family too? How can a mother-in-law who herself was
married forcibly encourage such an activity. I dont know
how much sense it makes to carry out such activity but my
only request is if someone I can be any help to make people
aware of their wrong doing or can help in any other sense
please feel free to contact me. Kudos!! to everyone involved
in making such a documentary. You people are the actual
heroes and my hats to u all!!!
Producer/Reporter Petr Lom responds:
You raise some very thoughtful points. Yes, the practice
is extraordinarily humiliating for women. Your point about
the kidnappers is very interesting too. We did ask some
of them your question. Often, they told us that they would
not want their daughters or sisters to be kidnapped. But
they said that if the kidnapper was wealthy, had a good
job, then they wouldn't be against the kidnapping. You
see how economics is tied to the practice.
Finally, your last question: how
can women who have been kidnapped condone the practice?
Customs are hard to change. And think of what we know
about patterns of abuse -- how those who have been abused
tend to themselves become abusers. Condoning kidnapping
is a bit like that. Many of the women would tell the kidnapped
girls, "we all came this way" as justification.
Vernon Wong - Waipahu, Hawaii
I believe Frontline is THE best documentary program on TV.
These short stories are wonderful. This story shows how
a tradition that was probably necessary a thousand years
ago still persists today. Today, I imagine that is a practical
way for farmers and herders to find wives. For example,
some Japanese fishermen and farmers today have similar difficulty
in finding wives.
Anonymous - San Gabriel, California
It seems wrong when we examine the situation with our norms.
However, we cannot judge their tradition with our norms.
We cannot point our fingers at them and say, "Your way of
lifestyle does not fit out norms, change NOW!" After watching
the show, I was ambivalent. Some couple seems happy after
the kidnapping. It really made me think how something seems
so wrong can result in happiness.
Re'ne G - Los Angeles, California
I happened to come upon this documentary tonight and was
completely taken aback. This is one custom that does not
need to continue and I would gladly sign any petition that
would come my way. I was horrified, mortified and in such
shock to see that the groom's family didn't seem to care
how upset and unwilling the women were. I can't even begin
to comprehend how these families think it's ok and just.
Thank you so much for bringing this to light and reminding
me things like this unfortunately still exist in the world.
Let's hope things change on your follow-up trip.
Michelle Kunert - Sacramento, California
This issue of bride kidnapping should be considered as shocking
to those as Oprah Winfrey as female genitalia mutilation.
However, in regards to the rights of women in the third
world and these former Soviet countries, American feminist
groups like N.O.W. have no interest in them (all their financial
resources instead go preserving abortion on demand, for
any reason!). Back to the moderator's question, this clearly
is a human rights violation, especially since the men are
not forced into marriage like this. Apparently, so many
women in the society are kept ignorant so that play along
with this male dominated society that created this cultural
Deborah Ray-Wright - Wichita
I draw the line here. I believe this is a clear violation
of human rights. Firstly, let me start by saying this is
my first time watching FRONTLINE, and it will not be my
last. I am a 28-year-old, college educated, African-American
woman. I found this story shocking and compelling. I came
to a realization of how blessed I am that I was able to
choose my own spouse and enjoy the joy that it was a choice.
Not only do I blame the Soviet government for not enforcing
the law, but I also see that peer pressure is not just a
problem that our "next generation" is going through here
in America everyday, but it is a problem of society as a
whole. I still sit dumbfounded at how the women--other women--pressure
a woman into a situation that may not be the best for her.
I wonder is it a matter of culture or is it just that they
need for a bigger clan to assist in day to day operation
of the household. I hope that soon, very soon, the Soviet
government will start to consider that life is not always
about the economy but about the welfare of our fellow men.
Paul Simons - Philadelphia Pennsylvania
The line between these 'traditions' and absolute violation
is clear. If we can say murder and rape are wrong then we
had better say wife kidnapping, as well as the 'tradition'
of genital mutilation, are horrific violations that need
to be condemned and stopped. Otherwise we might as well
accept anarchy. I'm disgusted hearing these foul 'traditions'
Alan Salazar - San Jose, California
Outrageous! I watched this segment in complete disbelief!
I simply find it hard to accept that this sort of behavior
is tolerated, even acceptable, in Kyrgyzstan. Having grown
up in a society where we protected our women (a bad word
directed at one of my sisters would have earned you a beatdown
by myself and my brothers), I found this practice of "bride
kidnapping" utterly incomprehensible. It's tantamount
to legalized kidnapping/rape. I devoutly hope that the treatment
of women improves by leaps and bounds in that country.
J. Wayne - New York City, New York
I happened to be watching this with my two young children
(six and two-and-a- half). My son, who is just six, had
me read the subtitles to him, as he was too tired and they
went by too fast. I asked him if he understood what was
happening, and he said, "No," but had a very disturbed look
on his face, realizing that this was not "just a TV show".
Somehow, without my explaining, he seemed to understand
it was "real". I searched my mind quickly for a way to explain
that he could understand. He has been fairly sheltered and
home schooled so far. So I said to him, "What if in 20 years
your sister was out walking and someone - none of us in
our family knew - decided that he wanted to marry her without
asking her if she wants to marry HIM. [What if he, without]
even knowing what kind of person she is, grabbed her and
carried her off to his house, and kept her there until she
agreed to marry him, not letting her call us, her family,
until the deed was done?" My little boy looked up at me
and said in a very small voice,"Scared." I don't know what
I expected him to say, but that surprised and touched me.
Once again, it convinced me that for true change, you have
to start with the children and speak to them of how it affects
and has affected their families. Only then will laws already
on the books begin to be followed.
Anonymous - Fort Meyers, Florida
I was raised as a migrant worker but I enjoyed my life.
I have felt that my children have been taking their lifestyle
and freedom for granted. So I had my daughter who is 12
watch the show. She was shocked how culture and tradition
was so different in other countries. She seems to understand
freedom is a privilege that she must appreciate. I love
your FRONTLINE show; it helps me show my daughter to relate
to the rest of the world and just not what the new style
Daniel Serfaty - Cambridge, Massachusetts
Great story. The ambiguity of people's attitude toward bride
kidnapping is well portrayed. Beautiful music, pictures,
and cinematography. This documentary filmmaker has a great
Rose Jacobsohn - New York, New
The conditions and status of women in this world is frightening.
How sad! I know horrible things are still going on as we
speak, but this in particular, I was not aware of... This
story/documentary is SO very important! Thank you for showing
it. I will pass the info on to other[s]! Thank you again.
Producer/Reporter Petr Lom responds:
Thanks for writing. Please note on the Web site the links
to sites about bride kidnapping and women's
rights in Kyrgyzstan -- especially the Association
of Crisis Centers in Kyrgyzstan. If you know anyone
who'd like to help them, pass on the information too.