Everything you need to know about marriage in Kyrgyzstan

8 Jul 2023·20 min to read
Articles
Everything you need to know about marriage in Kyrgyzstan 01

Kyrgyzstan is a central Asian country best known for its walnut-fruit forests. One does not have to be a citizen of Kyrgyzstan before one is allowed to perform marriage in the country. Both foreigners and native Kyrgyz perform marriages every year, with an average of 45,000 marriages registered annually in Kyrgyzstan. Couples have the freedom to perform any type of marriage according to their religious beliefs, communities, or personal preferences. However, only marriages performed civilly are legally binding. In essence, a civil marriage must be performed prior to any other type of marriage in order for the couple to be legally married. 

Family is essentially the backbone of Kyrgyzstani society, and the families of both the bride and groom continue to play significant roles in marriages and other important life events. In Kyrgyzstan's societies, there are strict structures that are flooded by families, and all marriages begin with an introduction. Arranged marriages used to be very popular in the country, where the families of the bride and groom found potential partners for their children as soon as they reached the legal marriage age. In some ethnic groups, families may promise their children to each other as a way of making the bonds between the two families and the ethnic group at large stronger. 

The groom is required to ask for permission from the bride's family before proceeding with marriage plans. Parents' blessings are also important to couples. Before the marriage ceremony, the bride and groom must go to each parent to request their blessings. Marriages in Kyrgyzstan mark the beginning of a new life between both spouses, and there is often a ceremonial rite surrounding the fact that the bride is departing the home she grew up in to live with her new husband and family. As you read on, you will find out more about the types of marriages in Kyrgyzstan as well as their customs and traditions. Let’s get started.

Civil marriages 

Civil marriages are the most popular types of marriages in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, spouses cannot be legally married without performing a civil marriage ceremony. Civil marriages must be officiated by an authorized marriage registrar in the registrar's office. Both foreigners and Kyrgyzstan nationals are allowed to perform this type of marriage, provided they are able to submit all the required documents and meet all the conditions stated under the constitution of the country. American diplomatic and consular officers are not allowed to perform marriages. Only the ZAGS is authorized to perform international marriages in the Kyrgyz Republic. Once a civil marriage is performed in Kyrgyzstan, it will be recognized in the country and other countries abroad. 

Foreign spouses who want to get married in the country are required to submit a proof of address. This could also be called a proof of entry, and most times, the immigration card of such a spouse will be used to check if they have resided in Kyrgyzstan for the required timeframe. To get married in the country, both spouses must have reached the age of 18, as this is the minimum marriage age in Kyrgyzstan. The marriage exception only allows an age difference of one year. Spouses aged 17 years and older may be allowed to marry with the permission of the executive local public authority. Unlike in most other countries, only the consent of parents can authorize marriage between minors. 

Under the marriage laws, forced marriages are regarded as criminal offenses that are punishable and may result in imprisonment. Spouses must enter into marriage voluntarily and with their own consent.13 percent of girls in the country are married before their 18th birthday, and child marriages are peculiar to some regions. They are mostly performed in Chui, Osh Oblast, and as halal in Abad. Several amendments have been made to reduce the number of child marriages in the country. The documents submitted by foreign spouses during the marriage registration may take longer to verify than those obtained in Kyrgyzstan. All documents from foreign countries must include an apostille. This serves as an authorization stamp to prove the legitimacy of such a document. 

The official languages of Kyrgyzstan are Kyrgyz and Russian. All documents submitted must be in either of these languages. Spouses who are from foreign countries must ensure that their documents are properly translated by an accredited translator before their final submission. During the marriage ceremony, too, foreign spouses are required to provide an interpreter if they do not speak any of the official languages in the country. Marriages to be performed between a foreign citizen and a national of the Kyrgyz Republic must be officiated by ZAGS. There are certain documents that must be provided by both spouses, which are stated below.

Documents Required

  • Both spouses must provide a valid means of identification, such as a national ID card or a valid passport.
  • Divorce or death certificates. Either of these documents must be provided by spouses who were previously married but are now separated or divorced.
  • Both partners must submit copies of government-issued birth certificates.
  • Foreign spouses must submit an affidavit of freedom to marry.
  • Proof of entry and residence may be required from foreign spouses.

Religious and traditional marriages

Religious and traditional marriages are very important to the Kyrgyz. In some regions, couples who do not perform a religious or traditional marriage as needed are not recognized as being officially married. Religious marriages are not legally binding, and a civil marriage must be performed before spouses are allowed to perform any other type of marriage. The main religion of Kyrgyzstan is Islam. Islam makes up 90 percent of the total population, while Christianity makes up about 8 percent of the country. The remaining 2 percent is for people who have no religious affiliations. 

Arranged marriages are not very popular anymore in the country, but there are still some families that perform them. They try to keep the bond between families in the same ethnic clan. Families often intermarry in noble families, where spouses have to marry someone who is of the same status as them in terms of finances, education, and beauty. Muslim marriages often involve various payments from the groom and his family as ways of appreciating the bride and also thanking her parents for raising her.

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Marriage traditions in Kyrgyzstan

Mahr

This is a Muslim tradition that is performed at Islamic weddings in Kyrgyzstan. The Mahr refers to the money or any other valuable item, such as land or other assets, that is paid to the wife before marriage. This is different from the dowry, and it is meant to be the wife's property as she enters a new era.

Dowry 

In Kyrgyzstan, religious and traditional marriages require male spouses to pay dowry. Both families will meet together, and the bride's family will present a bride price. There may be some negotiations involved where both families reach an agreement on prices that work for them.

Nikah

This refers to the marriage contract between the husband and wife in Islamic marriages, and this ritual is a major part of marriages. The marriage contract includes the terms and responsibilities of both partners in the marriage, and it must be signed by both spouses and their witnesses.

Same-sex marriages 

There is no recognition of same-sex relationships in Kyrgyzstan. LGBT people in the country face legal challenges that non-LGBT people do not. The status of homosexuality and same-sex sexual activities has been legal since 1998, but there are no discrimination protections or marriage benefits for same-sex couples.

Polygamous marriages 

Polygamy is illegal in Kyrgyzstan. Marriage is a union between a single woman and a single man. This implies that any form of marriage, such as polygamy or polyandry involving multiple spouses, is not allowed. There have been various attempts to legalize polygamous civil marriages in the country, but no bill has passed yet.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties

Laws

According to the laws of marriage in Kyrgyzstan, before a man and woman are allowed to enter into marriage, they must have reached the legal age of marriage, which is set at 18 years for both men and women. The law only recognizes civil marriages conducted at the civil registry by a civil registrar; however, due to the strong influence of Islamic religion in the country, many couples refuse to contract civil marriages; they often have Islamic religious marriages, which are not recognized under the law, and this does not provide any protection for couples under the law. Customary or religious marriages are not recognized by Kyrgyzstan's marriage law; however, cohabitation is permitted; however, cohabitation with a female under the age of 18 is a punishable offense. 

Under the Islamic laws under which many couples contract marriage in Kyrgyzstan, there is no legal age for marriage; therefore, marriage can be contracted between a man and woman once they reach the age of puberty, which has contributed immensely to the high rate of child marriages in the country. Under the civil laws of marriage in Kyrgyzstan, marriage must only be contracted between a man and woman; the law does not recognize marriage between persons of the same sex as it is believed to be against the natural order of things. Marriage between close relatives is prohibited in the country; siblings are prohibited from marrying one another, but marriage between first cousins is not prohibited in the country. The husband and wife must give their voluntary and free consent to marriage before it is allowed to take place. 

The use of force and threats to obtain consent from the husband and wife is prohibited, and such marriages can be declared void. According to Islamic religious laws, the consent of the bride to marry must be given by the male legal guardian of the bride, which could be her father. Under the law of marriage in Kyrgyzstan, polygamy is considered illegal, but it is practiced within the country under the Islamic religious laws of marriage. If either of the spouses has been married in the past and they wish to contract a new marriage agreement, they must provide proof that the previous marriage has been dissolved by presenting a divorce certificate or a death certificate in the event of widowhood. 

Foreigners who wish to be married in Kyrgyzstan are permitted, but the marriage must be done according to the laws of marriage in Kyrgyzstan, and they must be eligible for marriage in their home country before they can be allowed to contract marriage in the country. All marriage documentation requirements must be submitted and verified by the civil registrar before marriage can take place. All marriages must be registered at the civil registry to be able to enjoy all the benefits that come with marriage in the country.

Rights

Under Kyrgyzstan's laws of marriage, the husband and wife are recognized as equals, therefore they enjoy equal rights in marriage. The husband and wife have the right to be recognized as the heads of the house, which indicates that when it comes to making important decisions in the family, they both have the right to do so. They have the right to make each other their next of kin, and in case of emergencies, they have the right to make decisions on behalf of the concerned spouse. The husband and wife have equal rights to be referred to as the legal guardians of the children. 

The law grants the husband and wife the same right to perform their roles as the legal guardians of the children in any situation and at all times. They are both conferred the right to exercise parental authority over the children when needed. Couples have the right to be involved in various socioeconomic and political activities without any restrictions; they have the right to vote and be voted for, and they can also fill official government positions. The husband and wife are entitled to work in jobs that best suit their various careers under marriage law. 

Unlike unmarried people, a husband and wife can file joint taxes as one instead of separately. The law requires both the husband and wife to meet the same requirements in order to contract and finalize a divorce. The couple can decide to dissolve marriage based on mutual consent or on the failure of one of the spouses to carry out his or her duties in marriage. Under the unrecognized but practiced religious marriage in the country, the husband has the unilateral right to divorce his wife without any reason or through the practice of talaq. Following a divorce, both the husband and wife have equal custody and visitation rights to the children.

Costs

Hosting a wedding in Kyrgyzstan takes a lot of time, effort, and, most importantly, money. Many couples are faced with the question of how much marriage costs in Kyrgyzstan, but the answer to this largely depends on a number of factors, such as the financial ability of the couple and their families, the number of invited guests, the size of the wedding, and the hopes of the couple to achieve the wedding of their dreams. 

The average cost of marriage in Kyrgyzstan is around 100,000 soms to 500,000 soms. This is due to the various events and celebrations that have to take place before the actual marriage ceremony takes place. Marriage celebrations often go on for days and, of course, cost a lot of money. The cost of the event is divided between the families of the bride and groom. The practice of paying a bride price is commonplace in Kyrgyzstan, but the costs differ from region to region in the country. 

In the region of Naryn, the average bride price is estimated to be around 100,000-130,000 soms; in Chui, the average price is 80-100 thousand soms; and in Jalal-Abad and Osh, the average bride price is set at 100-130 thousand soms. In Batken, the average cost is 90–100 thousand soms, and finally, in Talas, it is estimated at around 160–180 thousand soms.

Duties

The husband and wife have equal duties and responsibilities in the home. All housework should be equally divided between the couple. The husband and wife must be committed to one another; there must be mutual support and assistance for each other at all times. The law does not specifically state that the wife should obey her husband at all times, but they are both required to respect one another and their various opinions at all times. 

Under the Islamic religious marriage, which is not recognized under the law but is widely practiced, the wife must obey her husband at all times, and she must not question his decisions as he is believed to be the legal guardian of the wife. The husband is obligated to provide for all the needs of the family at all times. He must provide maintenance for his wife and the children. The couple can come to an agreement to jointly contribute to the welfare and well-being of the family.

Conclusion 

Kyrgyzstan is a culturally diverse country, and families play important roles in marriages. Before marriage preparations go further, both spouses are required to perform an engagement and receive the blessings of their respective families so that the marriage can proceed peacefully.

During the registration of marriage in Kyrgyzstan, there are certain fees that will be requested from the spouses. This can be either to obtain the marriage certificate or to speed up the registration process. A marriage must be recorded in the civil registry to ensure its validity. His article is a full guide to everything you need to know about marriage in Kyrgyzstan.

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