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When Kidnapping To Marriage Is A Ritual

The Abduction of the Sabine Women, by Nicolas Poussin, (1634–1635) (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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When Kidnapping To Marriage Is A Ritual

Bride kidnapping, also known as marriage by abduction or marriage by capture, is a practice throughout history and around the world in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry. It’s said that bride kidnapping still occurs in some cultures like the Romani, also known as Gypsies, Tzeltal in Mexico and Nepalies. If you manage to forcefully kidnap a girl and keep her by your side for 2-3 days, she officially becomes your wife. Pretty crazy, right?

Obvious most of us will be in surprised with a ritual that allows kidnapping a girl (bride) for marriage intention.  Yes, it’s an old ritual of marriage of western parts of Nepal, some parts of Darjeeling hills and Sikkim. In the western part of Nepal near Tibet border some places like Mustang, Muktinath, Kagbeni etc and very few places of Darjeeling hills and Sikkim where girls are first kidnapped  and that’s  ends with marriage. Some say this custom violates women’s rights. Forced marriage is illegal in everywhere, but many say that more legislation and education is needed to strengthen women’s voice in deciding whom they marry. The average age of first marriage in the Himalayan region is below 18. The tradition is prevalent in the village development committees across central Mustang, such as Kagbeni, Muktinath and Jhong and Chhusang,  Lalbahadir Pun, a observation on this topic, says this area is called “Barha Gaule.” Barha means 12, and Gaule meaning villagers in Nepali, as the area originally comprised 12 villages. Some people say that the 12 villages make up one of the 59 indigenous groups listed by the Nepali government. They say they have unique marriage customs. There isn’t an age limit for marriage in this community. It depends on the family environment and the situation then and there. They also marry within their same community, even with first cousins. People say that kidnapping brides is another marriage tradition of the indigenous group. When a man likes a woman, the tradition of forcefully taking away the woman and getting married also exists in this community. And if the women are against it, there is also a tradition of using force. Usually people from the men’s side come to take the woman away. Sometimes, though, the women’s family is against it. If the men’s party wins, they can take their daughter. People say that they keep the woman in the mukhiya’s house. Because there is opposition from the girl’s family, she is usually kept in the mukhiya’s house. Bride is usually kept for three days, and within this time, the girl’s family tries to get their daughter back. After the third day, two or three people from the girl’s family go and inquire if she is happy to live with the man. If the answer is positive, the family then agrees on the wedding. After the girl agrees to the marriage, the man and his relatives go to her house, saying, “Horch, horch,” which means “forgiveness” in their local dialect. They take along “chyaang,” local rice wine, and “khada,” a piece of cream-colored silk cloth used on special occasions, for the bride’s entire family. The groom also offers money to the bride as collateral so that she can start a new life for herself if the marriage doesn’t work out. The belief also requires the groom to repay the bride’s parents for the breast milk she was fed as a baby by offering the mother a minimum amount of 8 Nepali rupees (10 cent USD) and a khada and the father 1 Nepali rupee (1 cent USD) and a khada. After this offering, the youngest member from the groom’s family offers chyaang to the bride’s family. Then, the groom has to bow down to every member of the girl’s family. But many times, the tradition doesn’t follow this communal process. People say that the girls are usually threatened and also mentally traumatized, forcing them to agree to the wedding. For example, sometimes men trick the girl’s family by replacing her with a different woman who has her face covered and is told to nod her approval to the family.  Now a day the tradition has been declining, but that many men and the mukhiya still partake in and support it. Now, Government is actively working to spread awareness about these negative aspects of this tradition. So many people from around the globe come there to see the place where the traditions like these. Different NGOs, Organizations  telling people not to abduct women who they like and marry against their will. All the common people are striving to give these women a voice. Women can’t raise their voice against this tradition. Although many men agreed verbally that they wouldn’t “steal” the girls and marry them against their will, they refused to sign any documents confirming this assurance. Common people, says burglary women is the only way for men who aren’t rich to get married. It’s only the rich men who get to marry the girl they like. No one wants to marry poor boys. All the girls want to get married to the rich men. But all general people who aren’t also have to get married. Therefore this custom will help keep the tradition of marriage alive and offer everyone an opportunity to get married. But it is also true that this ritual should be changed.

Forced marriage is a violation of human rights. Hence this custom must be eradicated through education among the common people and assistance from Government’s legal cell. We have to make sure that no one should deprive from rights of equality. In our world every body should get same opportunity to become successful and established in life. That’s what democracy means to us.

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