Universal to every society is the institution of marriage. How partners are selected, however, varies. While some selection procedures adhere to the human rights of the women involved, others such as bride abduction do not. Bride abduction has been considered as the carrying away of a girl by total strangers to a young man’s home with the aim of marrying her. Whilst the number of girls affected by this practice is not known, evidence from Central Asian and South Africa suggest that bride abduction is wide spread. In Ghana, since studies have not focused on the experiences of the women married through abduction, this study was conducted to explore the experiences of women married through abduction and the factors that sustain it in the Jirapa district. The study employed a qualitative approach. The target population was all women married through abduction, men who abducted and community leaders in the Gbari and Vinving communities in the Jirapa district. Using purposive sampling and snowball sampling techniques, the study selected a total of twenty participants for the research. The study found out that all participants indicated that they grew up knowing and accepting the practice and due to tradition and peaceful coexistence they do not follow up to make trouble when girls are abducted. This study found out that the abuse of ancient traditions has resulted in young women being kidnapped and raped in our society. The study recommends that chiefs, elders and opinion leaders of the communities experiencing bride abduction must re-examine and redefine the culture surrounding marriage practice. Redefining the tenets of the culture will mean altering aspects of the culture that infringe on the wellbeing and happiness of the individuals in the community.
Universal to every society is the institution of marriage. How partners are selected, however, varies. While some selection procedures adhere to the human rights of the women involved, others such as bride abduction do not (Chabaya, Rembe & Wadesango, 2011). Bride abduction has been defined and understood by different scholars from different cultural contexts. In Central Asia, bride abduction is called ‘ala kachuu,’ referring to the widespread act of kidnapping a woman for marriage. Abduction in Asia includes a variety of actions such as treats, beating and rape (Kleinbach, Ablezova & Aitieva, 2005; pp. 191). Kidnapping implies the nonconsensual process where a young man and his friends take a young woman by deception or force to the home of his parents or near relatives and convince her to wear a marriage scarf (Kleinbach, Ablezova & Aitieva, 2005).
In Africa, Nkosi and Buthelezi (2013) define bride abduction as “the carrying away of a girl by total strangers to a young man’s home with the aim of marrying her” (pp. 161). Previouly, Nkosi (2009) provided a descriptive definition of bride abduction as the process of forcibly carrying away a young woman by a group of young men, who in most cases comprise of her abductor and his peers with the intention to marry her. These positions suggest that abduction is conducted with aggression and compulsion in a way that the victim does not condone. Handrahan (2000) categorizes bride abduction into two; a genuine one known as force abduction or non-consensual where the bride is forcefully abducted without her consent and that of her family and a mock one referred to as consensual in which the woman has prior knowledge and agrees with a man to participate in imitating an abduction. Despite the two distinct categorizations in theory, it is however difficult in reality to make such a distinction, since the act is a public show of force ( Borbieva, 2012).
Statistical data is not readily available on the number of women abducted each year for the purposes of marriage, but anecdotal evidence indicates that globally thousands of women are abducted into marriage. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, 11,800 women and girls are estimated to be abducted into marriage every year (Nogoibaeva, 2012; Sloth-Nielson, 2011). In Georgia (USA), activists estimated that hundreds of women are kidnapped and forced into marriage each year (Kokhodze & Uchidze, 2006). In South Africa, the media reported that in 2009 more than 20 Eastern Cape Province girls were forced to drop out of school every month due to bride abduction (Mwabene & Sloth-Nielsen, 2011). From a gender perspective, it can be seen as one of the cultural practices that vividly portrays the inequality between the two sexes when it comes to selecting one’s life partner.
An observation of the Asian and African perspective of the phenomenon reveals that the practice of bride abduction is widespread and outlawed. Besides, it is considered as an abuse and a violation of the human rights of a woman. Nkosi and Buthelezi (2013) stated that, in bride abduction, “there is gross violation of the girl’s rights in terms of beatings, rape, and emotional abuse” (pp. 163).
Bride abduction has several human rights infringements. Legally, its continuous practice is in spite of both national and international instruments outlawing it. A major international Convention that outlaws bride abduction is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). For example, article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states: “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”.
This points to the fact that marriage practices that involve kidnapping or any form of force is unacceptable and a violation of many legal frameworks (Chabaya, Rembe & Wadesango, 2011). In Ghana, there are legal frameworks that make bride abduction unacceptable and illegal. For example, Chapter 5 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana guarantees the individual’s enjoyment of the fundamental human rights. Specifically, article 14 (1) of the said chapter states that no one shall deprive the other of his/ her personal liberty except by law. Article 15 (2) of the same chapter also states that no one shall be subjected to inhumane treatment. Similarly, section 109 of Ghana’s Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) makes it clear that marriage entered into through the use of force to procure consent is criminal.
According to Borbieva (2012), despite the fact that the practice is prohibited by law, it is still being practiced in some places in the world perhaps because the culture of these places discourages victims from going to the authorities. This makes victims of the practice endure the consequences without being able to access help from anywhere. This study is an attempt to bring the experiences of women married through abduction and the factors that sustain it to the fore in order to help build advocacy around challenging the normative or structural assumptions of the practice.
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