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Ethiopia's Abducted Wives Rebel
Over the last few decades, Ethiopian women have been fighting against bridal abductions in the kidnapping capital of the world. Nurame Abedo experienced bridal abductions as a young girl, when she was kidnapped, raped and forced into marriage. When she escaped and ran home, her father told her she was ruined goods and that she had to go back to her husband and be a good wife. In Ethiopia, Nurame's story happens every day and in 2003 the National Committee on Traditional Practices of Ethiopia discovered that 69 per cent of marriages begin with abduction, rape, and a forced signature.
At the heart of the rebellion amongst Ethiopian women is Boge Gebre; the founder of the KMG, or Kembatti Mentti Gezzima-Tope, which means Kembatta Women Standing Together. She started this organisation in the 1990's in Kembatta after being kidnapped several times as a young girl and almost bleeding to death after a female circumcision. Ethiopian women are now asking for rights and equal opportunities and rights and Boge said "I knew the women themselves wanted to change it. Women don't lack brains, we only lack opportunity - to go to school, to be free and independent, to make our own choices".
Bridal abductions have been technically illegal since 2005 but it is interpreted in many different ways in Ethiopia. Boge and the KMG promised to ensure any man who committed abduction went to prison and she would berate the police until they acted. She also made it possible for girls in Kembatta to go back into a society where they had been previously shunned after being kidnapped and raped. She says: "I know if this progress is going to last, I have to change all of the community - including the men."
The rate of bridal abductions in Kembatta, where KMG is based, has been slashed by ninety percent. However, KMG now needs more money to save more girls as there are areas where the abductions are still rife. The Ethiopian government supposedly supports the abolition of bridal abductions as the country cannot develop if half its population is not free, but there is a new restrictive law banning international human rights groups, saying it is 'imperialist' to check to see if Ethiopians are being kidnapped or tortured. At the same time, they passed a law saying all Ethiopian human rights groups need to raise ninety percent of their income inside the country and therefore most of them have been shut down.
The Ethiopian Women's Lawyers Association (EWLA) has been supporting the movement against abduction and genital mutilation but now its leaders are in exile, unable to help anyone in Kembatta. Thankfully KMG has been classified as a "humanitarian" rather than a "human rights" organisation and they emphasise the fact that they do not oppose the government, but only want to hold it to the standards it says it sets for itself. For now they can still raise international funds.
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