Despite the fact that it is indeed something that can be considered an atrocity, and at times, a cultural tradition, kidnapping young women to force their hand in marriage is a practice that has existed since ancient times. The fact that kidnapping a woman to marry her is against the law in most countries does not stop it from happening repeatedly. In these countries many young women have had to accept this kidnapping as a part of their lives.
While most bridal kidnappings are true kidnappings, some are actually symbolically acted out in modern weddings. If a culture has had a strong history of bridal kidnapping, the groom may pretend to kidnap the bride as part of their marriage ceremony.
Even the modern day honeymoon is technically a nod to ancient bridal kidnapping, referring to the time period that the groom would take the bride into hiding to rape her repeatedly in the hopes of impregnating her. Although bridal kidnapping is a relatively rare occurrence in the United States, it occurs frequently on an international level.
The actual definition of marriage by capture is when a groom takes a young woman, one he wishes to marry, and captures her. While countries tend to vary on the process of kidnapping a young woman for matrimony, it is very common for a violent period of repeated rape to occur when the young woman is first kidnapped.
This is for the purpose of tainting them by taking their virginity, thus making them undesirable marriage candidates as well as getting them pregnant. Because of this, most countries view marriage by capture to be a sex crime and not a legal marriage.
The history of bridal kidnapping stems from ancient cultures. Some occurrences of early bridal kidnapping may be better defined as being raptio – which is when a large group of women is captured and forced into marriage. A majority of historians maintain that raptio was the earliest form of human trafficking.
It is safe to say that almost every female that is forced into marriage in the present day is a young girl. In some instances, girls as young as eight years old may be captured and then forced into matrimony. These cases are usually the most extreme.
Regardless of the cruel rituals that befall a young girl who is captured, these forced marriages may eventually be celebrated. In the African nation of Rwanda, a young girl who has been kidnapped and raped will almost certainly commit to a marriage with her captor.
Due to the shame of the loss of virginity combined with the possibility of an illegitimate pregnancy, the girl’s family will usually agree to the marriage after the kidnapping has occurred despite the circumstances. A marriage ceremony may be performed after the girl’s family accepts the man as a son-in-law. As per tradition, the captor may even ask the girl’s family for forgiveness.
In Kyrgyzstan, most of the marriages that occur are considered to fall within the category of forced marriage. Almost every single young woman is married by the age of 18. Although marriage by capture is technically illegal, it is not looked down on at all. On the contrary, many young girls there have accepted it as part of their marriage plan.
Unlike Rwanda, a traditional bridal kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan usually does not involve rape or any form of sexual torture. Instead, the potential groom’s friends and family will kidnap the young woman or girl that is wanted as a bride and hold her hostage in the man’s family home.
If they fail to force her to don a bridal veil signifying marital consent, they keep her in the home and try to convince her that she should marry into the family. Waiting for the girl to break and accept the marriage proposal is part of their tradition. If she doesn’t, there is a possibility that she will be released.