The Practice of Marriage by Abduction in Ethiopia

The custom is prevalent in Ethiopia and involves the kidnapping of women or young girls for marriage or rape.

The Practice of Marriage by Abduction in Ethiopia.
Image Source: Engin Akyurt/

The practice of marriage by abduction in Ethiopia involves the unlawful tradition of carrying away a woman or a girl for marriage or rape.

Traditions refer to the long-established patterns of behavior and actions, often passed down within a group or community over a long period. These practices are usually based on the ethics and beliefs held by members of a community or society.

Traditions are not easy to change because taboos protect them. Taboos refer to strong social prohibitions or bans concerning human actions based on religious beliefs as well as moral judgment. Most people adhere to a community`s patterns of behavior since they see them as the right things to do.

A community or society may sometimes drive a person away for committing a taboo, and many people fear this happening to them. It is not all traditional practices that are harmful in Ethiopia; however, the country has some good traditions such as breastfeeding and relieving women from work after delivery.

What are Harmful Traditional Practices?

Harmful traditional practices refer to the traditions that have adverse effects on human health and hinder the social and political rights of human beings. Some of the harmful practices affecting the young people of Ethiopia include marriage by abduction, early marriages, polygamy, forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (FGM). These few harmful practices and customs mentioned above are common in Ethiopia and affect reproductive health.

One very prevalent harmful practice happening in Ethiopia is marriage by abduction. People consider marriage a holy act in situations where both the bride and groom consent to the wedding. Families and relatives of the couple may additionally be notified of the decision in a proper marriage.

The Practice of Marriage by Abduction

In the case of marriage by abduction, however, women and girls are kidnapped without their knowledge. The families and relatives also have no clue or information about their loved one’s kidnappings and where they are taken.

In some cases, though, girls know that their abductions will happen. This, however, occurs only when in the cases where a girl falls in love with a kidnapper and the girl family does not approve of their relationship. This abduction is usually less complicated, and the family of the girl is informed.

Where the marriage by abduction process is more complicated and unlawful, a lot more planning has to be done. A kidnapper may, for instance, form a group of intimate friends and family to abduct a girl from her family.

Sexual Violence Against Victims of Abductions

In most cases, rape follows after an abduction. Abductor rape the girl as this guarantees their success in keeping the girl after paying some compensation to the girl’s family or after some negotiations through local elders. Additionally, kidnappers rape the girls because they believe once they rape a girl, it is less likely for them to get another husband. Marriage by abduction is a form of sexual violence against women and girls.

A Report on Marriage by Abduction

According to a study conducted in Ethiopia, the prevalence of marriage by abduction stood at 8% in 2005. All the abductions reported happened during the women`s first marriages. Girls as young as 13 years minimum and a maximum of 20 years could be abducted for marriage. The report also revealed that most victims of the abductions remarry more than twice in their lifetime. Additionally, the study also revealed that most abducted women or girls were victims of marital instability, domestic violence, rape, or abortion.

People and precisely, citizens of Ethiopia must recognize and realize that marriage by abduction is a harmful traditional practice, and there are health problems associated with the practice.



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