Marriage By Capture

In most countries where the tradition of bride kidnapping exists, it’s considered a sex crime by the government. But even so, marriages by capture are still practiced in Central and South Asia, some parts of Africa, the Caucasus, and Europe. In most of these countries, according to tradition, the girl must be a virgin when she gets married. Families of kidnapped girls usually don’t go to the police. They are afraid for their honor and their daughter’s future. There are a lot of stories of how difficult is for women to get used to married life after kidnapping, sharing their life and bed with a stranger. But can that kind of marriage have a happy ending? Can you fall in love with someone who kidnapped you? Sensa Nostra interviewed a woman who was kidnapped years ago, and lived for seventeen years with her kidnapper.

 “Mommy, how did you meet Daddy? How did you get married?” All children ask their parents these questions. But I was able to answer these questions and explain everything to my children only when they had grown up and were able to understand. My story was not like that of others.

I met my future husband when I was seventeen. He was twenty at the time. I noticed someone staring at me all the time at my friend’s birthday. You know, we girls always know when someone likes us. I felt that. I knew he liked me. From that day on, my new admirer followed me everywhere. He found out everything about me, about my life. At the time I had a boyfriend. We had quite a serious relationship, or so I thought. But now, after some time has passed, I think that I didn’t love him. I liked him, and so did my friends. So I decided (to be more correct, me and my friends decided) that I would date him. That’s how it started. Of course, my new admirer knew about all that, but still tried to see me, and followed me everywhere. To be honest, I liked his perseverance, and maybe he felt that. He couldn’t believe I was in love, and thought my family was forcing me to get married. That’s why he and his friends decided to ‘save me’ from this marriage. My parents found out about the situation and were scared, so I was not allowed to go anywhere alone. I was trying to protest, because I still couldn’t believe he would dare to do something to me.

It was the 18th of April, a nice spring day. And I had an exam at university. My mom insisted on going with me. We left home that morning on the bus. I entered the university gates with my friend, and my mom decided to stay outside till the end of the exam. There are always a lot of people near the university. But I noticed someone specific that I had seen before, among those people. It was my admirer’s friend. That’s when I felt a little scared. It was weird for that guy to be at my university. After that, everything happened so fast. The next second, a car stopped near us. A few guys grabbed me and pushed me into the car. I didn’t have time to do anything. I was shocked, and couldn’t believe it was serious. That’s why I just stopped worrying. They took me to eastern Georgia, where I have never been before. The guys were really funny. They joked and in fact, we had a nice time. So, soon I just forgot I was really kidnapped. It was just a nice trip for me. But my mom and everyone at my university knew about the kidnapping. My parents called the police and tried to find me. They found me after few days. My brother and cousins came to take me home. But at the moment they came, I thought about all the horrible things that could happen because of me. The men could kill each other. So I told my brother that it was my decision to go, that it wasn’t a kidnapping. I told them I was in love and wanted to marry this man. Of course my brother didn’t believe it at first, but I eventually convinced both him and my parents.

It was the 1990s. Bride kidnapping was normal at that time. It was kind of in fashion in Georgia. For guys, it was a way to show that they really liked a girl, and that they were brave enough to show it. There were stories where parents found their daughter and brought her home. There were also stories where parents didn’t allow their girls to come back. They were afraid that no one would ever want to marry them. But I decided to stay with my husband. No one forced me. I could have left with my brother, but I didn’t. It was my decision. My husband was in love with me, and after a while, I fell in love with him. He was doing everything to make me happy. And I must admit that I was happy. I liked him even before he kidnapped me. Maybe that’s why it was easy for me to stay with him. But I know that it is not always like that. Most marriages built on kidnapping usually fall apart very quickly, but we were married for seventeen years. We really loved each other.

We have two daughters who are adults now. They can’t believe I stayed with their father, and they don’t understand how someone could get married like that. They think I was just lucky to meet their father and not someone else. I agree. He was a good husband and a good father. Yes, we also got divorced. But in our case, kidnapping was not the reason. The reason was that we met and got married when we were too young. We didn’t understand that we would grow up, and that our habits and tastes will change. And we will need, really need, our freedom. I don’t regret having my husband in my life. But we would have been happier if we had met and got married in a different way, in a different time—when we both could have understood what we needed in life.

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