BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN — Walking proudly down a catwalk, the lights and glamour seemed like a lifetime away from Elzat Kazakbaeva’s nightmare ordeal five years ago when she was grabbed off a Kyrgyzstan street by a group of men wanting to marry her to an uninvited suitor.
Kazakbaeva is one of thousands of woman abducted and forced to marry each year in the former Soviet republic in Central Asia where bride kidnappings continue, particularly in rural areas.
Bride kidnapping, which also occurs in nations like Armenia, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan, was outlawed in 2013 in Kyrgyzstan where authorities recognized it could lead to marital rape, domestic violence, and psychological trauma.
But some communities still see it as a pre-Soviet tradition dating back to tribal prestige, said Russell Kleinbach, professor emeritus of sociology at Philadelphia University and co-founder of women’s advocacy group Kyz Korgon Institute.
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