Abducting Future Wife in Georgia – Tradition or Crime?
15 December, 2011
Abducting Future Wife in Georgia – Tradition or Crime?

There are many local traditions that foreigners find quite bizarre coming to Georgia. The topic of this week’s journey into the Georgian national society is not purely Georgian. However, this is the deeply rooted Caucasian tradition that is still alive, although hardly breathing. Let’s set out with Georgian Journal and find out what method Georgian enamored men would apply to if women did not wish to marry them. 

Gentle abductor

Story #1: Tiko is 28 years old now. She lives happily with

her husband Sergo and 8-year-old Misho. However, 10 years ago she might well become another man’s wife. ‘I was a first-year student at Ilia Chavchavadze state university, studying at the department of English language and literature. I had one suitor named Gia who was often coming to the university to see me. One day, one of my relatives who happened to be a friend of that guy, called on me and told me that we – a team of the close people were going to sit down and have a feast. I agreed of course and we gathered in the taxi. When we came to Vake Park, Gia joined us. I was surprised and asked him what he was doing there. He was drunk and told me he was going to marry me. This is how I found myself in Dighomi village (in Georgian Sopeli Dighomi – one of the suburbs near Didi Dighomi).’

Tiko did not make a hysteric scene in the taxi. However, as soon as they left the car, she told her suitor that she demanded to be brought back to her house for the evening. ‘He was so much in love with me that he did not utter a word, he was just gazing at me like mad. In those days, I was already in love with my future husband, but the latter was in the army then. To cut a long story short, they managed to bring Gia’s parents, grandmother and even his godfather from Kakheti (Eastern Georgian region) where he originated from and set a nourishing table. They began to bless us as the future husband and wife, but I was not surrendering, screaming that I was in love with another and did not wish to stay with him for the sake of nothing and nobody. Later on, Gia’s godfather entered the room and began to talk with me very intensely. He dizzied me so strongly that I almost said yes, I will marry him. However, I was able to pull myself together, called for Gia and asked him to let me go this time with the condition to call me whenever he wanted and added: who knows, maybe one day I too fall in love with you? This was the turning point. ’Gia turned out to be a 20-year-old gentleman. He overcame his youthful vanity and let Tiko go. In the meantime, Tiko’s parents were informed that she had married Gia. ‘My mother was so happy when she saw me returning home that she kissed my hands.”

Later on, Sergo returned from the army and they got married. However, Gia was still continuing loving Tiko and even demanded to meet with her husband. ‘Once, they agreed to meet. But Sergo was busy and I decided to end up this entire riot once and for all. I met Gia who was with his friends. I did not have anything left but to quarrel with him and managed to convince him to stop calling. It was a success.’

Hayrick

Story #2: She was 19 years old when one of his admirers abducted her and took her to Tianeti region. She does not want to talk about it, and she does not want to mention her name either. This is her friend who tells this story. Unfortunately, such stories also take place, when a man is so brutal that he wants to forcibly get close to a woman. When he attempted to do so, she managed to jump from the second floor of the private house and hid herself in the… hayrick!!! That’s where she spent all the night!

The members of the family were searching her everywhere all night long, but in vain. In the morning, when everyone had left the place, the abducted lady managed to march from Tianeti to Tbilisi and returned home safe and sound.  In this case, the father of the girl did not ignore this brutality and sent the fellow to jail for three years. Nowadays, ‘the victim’ of this situation is the mother of three children.

Woman’s abduction – Caucasian and oriental tradition dating back to millennia.

One of the great advantages of abducting a future wife was that a man who would commit this ‘deed” was not obliged to pay bride price/bride-wealth to the woman’s parents. As usual, the woman was abducted by a future husband and his friends, or only friends would do this and bring the fiancee to the man’s house where the relatives tried to calm the abducted woman and convince her to marry her abductor.

There are other cases too when the so-called ‘abduction’ takes place. This is the case when young people are in love with each other and they encounter some traditional obstacles. For instance, if there is a tradition in some countries that a younger daughter is not allowed to get married earlier than her elder sister then parents cannot give them blessing of marriage and therefore, the younger sister is ‘abducted’. After some time, they come to the fiancee’s father and ask to pardon them, but the latter curses them. However, as soon as the first child is born, he forgives them.

At my great surprise, the history of abducting a fiancee is dating back to the very ancient times. We can encounter it even in the Bible during the description of the war between Israel and the Benyamin Tribe that was ended with the nearly total annihilation of the latter. The Israeli vowed not to give their daughters to the representatives of Benyamin tribe, however, they entitled the six hundred soldiers to abduct women during the annual festival in Siloam.

After Some time, the king Saul of the Benyamin tribe turned out to be too shy to abduct one of the women dancing in the vineyard. But the latter ran to him herself. This is the episode that became the ground for the later scolding that the king once made to his son Jonathan. He called him ‘the son of an insolent woman’.

Abducting a woman with the aim to get married was the practice spread all over the Caucasus countries, as well as in Kirgizstan, Ethiopia, Ruanda and some other African countries. Abducting a fiancee was also spread among Turkish peoples. It is considered to be a crime and not a lawful kind of getting married in most of the abovementioned countries.

However, under one and the same term of abducting a woman with the aim to forcibly get married, there are differences; in African countries, the abduction is often accompanied by the raping, when in the Middle Asia it only ends up with psychological pressure. If a young lady stays in the house of an abductor even for one night, whether they had sex or not, the woman is considered disgraced and there are very few chances left for her to get married to another guy. Therefore, this circumstance obliges her to stay and marry her abductor.  This was the case in Georgia as well, as it was considered to be a shame to return home.

 

What does the law say?

Fortunately, abducting a woman is a crime in Georgia too. Archil Gorkhelashvili, a lawyer from the non-governmental organization “Article 42 of the Constitution” confirms it as a professional. “Abduction is an unlawful deprivation of liberty, which is included in the article 143 of the Criminal Code of Georgia. Abductor is punished from 2 to 4 years of imprisonment. The criminal investigation may be started any time as soon as the appropriate authorities are informed on the case. The proceedings against the suspect (man) will be stopped on the basis of the statement of the victim (woman) of alleged crime that there has been no crime and everything happened upon her will.”

 

What do Georgian men reckon?

Time changes and consequently, men’s minds develop as well. Nowadays, out of the questioned men, all of them are against woman’s abduction. “I do think it is a terrible thing. It is a serious insult of a person’s dignity. Moreover, it is a simple irresponsibility. No matter how you achieve it – whether by force or by cheating a lady, it means that you restrict a person’s right of choice so much that you practically define her future life. It is the matter of life – getting married - is not it? Here, a woman has two ways left – to ‘fall in love’ with a husband abductor or to betray him, as it happens quite often around me, when women who had been abducted in their youth betray their husbands. However, it is very good that a woman’s forcible abduction is considered to be a crime and is punishable,“ Kakha Maghradze, 34, told Georgian Journal.

Shalva Enukidze, 34, has never been married before, but he says that he is categorically against abducting a woman and he was like that when he was much younger. “This is vandalism of course. I have never been a big admirer of traditions. I don’t have any friends like that.  I just have nothing in common with such people. By the way, I have not heard of any such stories recently.  This is a real violence – misusing a woman’s virginity. Unfortunately, there are some Georgian men who don’t understand it. However, I do believe that sooner or later, this tradition will be eradicated.

 

Everything - Even abduction - is good when it ends in the good way

Story #3: Nowadays, Tiko (from story #1) lives peacefully with Sergo and Gia too has got married and has twins. However, our heroine is an example of a brave Georgian woman. But historically, Georgian women were like that, many of which were going to the war and trying to nurse soldiers. Georgian mothers too, they were ready to send all their sons to the war in order not to see shame. But unfortunately, there were some more feminine women (though femininity is normally a big virtue for a lady) who were falling victims to this tradition. In old times, mostly in the regions of Georgia, abducting a woman was a very usual way of getting married. Some part of our grandmothers and their mothers had not even seen their future husbands, but once abducted, most of them considered their abductors to be their fate and stayed. Sometimes they had seen them, but did not love them and neither did parents approve their being together, but once abducted, for a young lady it was a shame to return. As time passes, it becomes less and less common, but it turns out that the tradition has only lessened and not eradicated along with the time. Nino is 38 years old now. She has 19-year old daughter Teona and 14-year-old son Giga. She got married when she was only 17. It happened only two decades ago but surprisingly she had not seen her future husband at all. ‘I was cheated by my close female friend. She told me to accompany her friends and that they would give me a lift from the University to home. I was shy but at last I consented. That is how I found myself at the house of my future husband, among totally strange people.’

Nino confessed in talks with Georgian Journal that she found it extremely difficult to get along with the new situation. ‘At that time, my father was away on business. So, the chief of the family was my uncle who was a very strict man. He told me: once you entered the family, you have to stay there for the rest of your life.’ It sounds quite cruel I guess, and is not very common nowadays in Georgia but there still are very traditional families where it happens. ‘It was not the marriage with love. However, I was lucky as my husband proved to be a good man with many good qualities who will do anything for the sake of his wife and children,’ Nino confides.

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