5.3  Marriage by abduction

Marriage by abduction is the unlawful carrying away of a woman for marriage. It is a form of sexual violence against the woman. The would-be abductor forms a group of intimate friends and relatives to kidnap the girl without the slightest clue or information being given to the girl’s family, relatives or friends. In some cases abduction is followed by rape.

Marriage by abduction is prevalent in Ethiopia. According to a study conducted in 2005 8% of women of reproductive age reported that they had been married by abduction. Figure 5.5 shows that it is more common in Oromia (11%) and SNNPR (13%) but less common in some other region, e.g. Tigray (1.4%), and Amhara (2.4%).

Map of Ethiopia showing the prevalence of marriage byabduction in some regions
Figure 5.5  Map of Ethiopia showing the prevalence of marriage by abduction in some regions in the year 2005.

The reasons for marriage by abduction include:

  • Refusal or anticipated refusal of consent by the parents or the girl
  • To avoid excessive wedding ceremony expenses and ease the economic burden of the conventional bride price
  • To outsmart rivals when the girl has many suitors or potential spouses and/or the inclination of the girl or her parents is not predictable
  • Difference of economic status of partners.

Some of the harmful effects include:

  • Maltreatment of the girl including beating, inflicting bodily harm, severe disabilities and death
  • Conflicts between families may lead to quarrels lasting for generations
  • Unhappy, unstable and loveless marriage
  • Psychological stress on the girl resulting in suicide
  • Expenses related to conflict resettlements as compensation to the family or for court cases
  • Discontinuation of schooling and other opportunities for the girl.

5.2.1  Legal aspects of early marriage

5.4  Polygamy