Winners of the Essay Contest, along with other selected participants, are invited to present their papers during the Human Rights Essay Colloquium. The colloquium, which takes place each spring semester, is an opportunity for students to present human rights papers and engage in open and lively discussion with other students and faculty members.
View all past Essay Contest winners below. Click on the winner to see their paper abstract.
Columbia College, Undergraduate
Understanding Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan as a Multi-Faceted Problem
This paper explores the increased prevalence in bride kidnapping since Kyrgyzstan’s independence in 1991, as well as how bride kidnapping fits into a global tradition of gender-based violence. Bride kidnapping has some roots in the pre-Soviet era—although the specific nature of those roots is controversial—but the practice has seen unprecedented growth in Kyrgyzstan since independence. While official data are lacking, some experts believe that up to one third of Kyrgyz marriages are a result of nonconsensual bride kidnapping. This paper discusses the factors that help explain the increased popularity of bride kidnapping. Bride kidnapping is largely a cultural phenomenon, and this paper looks at the role of culture—and invented Kyrgyz history—in fueling an increase in bride kidnapping. However, bride kidnapping is not solely a cultural phenomenon, and this paper also discusses the economic and political incentives that have contributed to the rise in bride kidnapping. Finally, this paper discusses how bride kidnapping, while fairly uncommon in most of the world, fits into a global tradition of gender-based violence. Given these varied explanations for the rise in bride kidnapping, and the intersection of these explanations, this paper concludes that any efforts to decrease rates of bride kidnapping would need to be nuanced and multifaceted.