Kyrgyzstan on Saturday signed into law harsher measures against men who kidnap women to force them into marriage, introducing prison terms of up to 10 years.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev signed new legislation punishing men who snatch brides with up to seven years in prison.
Previously men faced only three years in jail for forcing a woman into marriage, and abduction was not considered an aggravating circumstance.
The Central Asian state also raised to 10 years the maximum sentence for men who abduct girls under the legal marriage age of 17 to enter a “de facto marriage”. Previously the maximum jail term was seven years.
Officials have long urged harsher punishments for those who abduct women for marriage in the largely Muslim ex-Soviet state.
Former Kyrgyz president Roza Otunbayeva estimated in 2011 that 15,000 women become victims each year.
The practice began as a way of avoiding paying bride money or bypassing parental disapproval in Kyrgyzstan, which was largely nomadic until late in the Soviet era.
But it has now become common for men to snatch women with whom they are not in a romantic relationship and force them into abusive marriages that often end in divorce or even suicide.